4 Jul 2016

Kiwis urged to help Māori language survive

5:14 pm on 4 July 2016

Wellington streets were filled with the sounds of waiata and haka today as Māori Language Week kicked off with a parade through the middle of the capital.

The parade of sixteen floats and thousands of participants wound its way through the CBD from the train station to Te Papa around lunch-time.

Actor Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople and All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder were among those who joined in to promote the use of Māori language.

04072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Maori language week kicks off with a parade from Wellington Train Station to Te Papa. 4000+ people paraded through wellington to promote Te Reo. Julian Dennison.

Actor Julian Dennison is keen to one day be able to hold a conversation in Māori. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Julian said he was proud to be involved in promoting the language.

"It's a really awesome language. They just brought in te reo Māori at my school and it's been great. I've been taking baby steps at learning it.

"I think we should get more behind te reo. Being able to see a friend and have a conversation, it would be great if we could get to that stage."

A group performs during a parade to celebrate the start of Māori Language Week.

A group performs during a parade to celebrate the start of Māori Language Week. Photo: RNZ/ Aaron Smale

Sports broadcaster Jenny-May Clarkson said learning te reo was one of the best things she'd ever done. It had changed her life, she said.

Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said the turnout was higher than expected with an estimated 8000 people stretching from the Town Hall all the way back to the Beehive.

"It's great to have a whole bunch of people on the streets not protesting but celebrating te reo Māori."

Māori Language Week was a chance for people to try learning and using the language, he said.

"We believe that in order for the language to survive the whole country has to come on board. It's something we can all be proud of.

"If we lose it here we can't go to any other country to get it back."

04072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Maori language week kicks off with a parade from Wellington Train Station to Te Papa. 4000+ people paraded through wellington to promote Te Reo. Ngahiwi Apanui, Chief Executive, Maori Language Commission.

Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui says all New Zealanders need to learn te reo to help the language survive. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

All Black Andrew Mehrtens is one of the ambassadors for Māori Language Week.

He grew up in Tuahiwi near Christchurch and spoke Māori fluently as a child.

The language was part of the Kiwi identity and he encouraged New Zealanders to embrace it.

04072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Maori language week kicks off with a parade from Wellington Train Station to Te Papa. 4000+ people paraded through wellington to promote Te Reo.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King