19 May 2006

New Zealand government to fund survival of several Pacific languages

10:14 am on 19 May 2006

The New Zealand government will spend over 370,000 US dollars over the next three years on a programme to revitalise the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau languages in New Zealand.

The Pacific Island Affairs Minister, Phil Goff, and the Associate Minister, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, say the new Budget will fund an expansion of their Ministry's successful Mind Your Language pilot involving the Niue community last year.

Mr Goff says the 2001 census found only six per cent of Cook Islanders, 12 per cent of Niueans and 30 per cent of Tokelauans born in New Zealand could hold an everyday conversation in their mother tongue.

He says the languages risk being lost within the next 30 years if cultural knowledge and language skills cannot be maintained and passed onto younger generations.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban says helping Pacific languages to survive and flourish was an important part of New Zealand's identity as a Pacific nation.