11 Sep 2017

Thousands attend Māori Language Week Parade

8:22 pm on 11 September 2017

Thousands gathered on the streets of Wellington today to celebrate the beginning of te wiki o te reo Māori.

The Māori Language Parade returned to the city for the second year running to promote Te Reo.

Twenty-five floats carrying tamariki from kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori throughout the Wellington region made their way from the Cenotaph to Civic Square chanting in te reo Māori.

The theme of this year's Māori Language Week is 'kia ora te reo Māori', which translates to 'keep the Māori language alive'.

It's a theme that resonated with a teacher from Early Years kindergarten who was at the parade with a group of toddlers.

"We're bicultural believers and te reo is awesome. We need to keep it alive and this is where it starts."

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Hundreds marched down Wellington's Lambton Quay to celebrate the start of Māori language week. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

The Māori Language Commission said around 21 percent of Māori and 23,000 non-Māori can hold a conversation in te reo.

A teacher from Te Iwi Kōhanga Reo in Tawa said that number was not enough and this week gives everyone a chance to learn.

"This is a normal thing for us to speak our language in our country. Everyone in New Zealand, Māori or non-Māori should be learning something in te reo Māori this week."

Former co-leader of the Green Party Metiria Turei also turned up to show her support for te wiki o te reo Māori.

She said te reo was an essential part of what it means to be a New Zealander for all tamariki.

"It's the birth right of all our kids, Māori and Pākehā. This is the only place where te reo Māori lives, it's the only place where it will thrive - all our kids deserve to learn our indigenous language here."

The crowd gathers at the climax of the Te Wiki O Te Reo Maori Parade.

The parade ended with speeches in Civic Square. Photo: Nita Blake-Persen

Ngahiwi Apanui, the chief executive of the Māori Language Commission, said the reason so many New Zealanders were reluctant to give te reo Māori a go was because they were scared of being judged if they got it wrong.

Mr Apanui said it was important to give the language a friendly face so that people feel comfortable speaking te reo.

"Those of us who are fluent in te reo Māori need to stop being offended every time somebody makes a mistake and actually support them.

"None of us who have learned te reo Māori were an instant expert. All of us made mistakes and we kept on going because people encouraged us and because people were kind."

The parade is the first of many Māori Language Week celebrations throughout the country.

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