Home | Browse Topics | Taonga Māori | Te reo Māori (in English) | Official status of te reo Māori

Taonga Māori

Official status of te reo Māori

Te reo as an official language of Aotearoa/New Zealand

Māori Language Act 2016, s 5

In New Zealand, anyone is allowed to speak any language they like, but you can’t necessarily expect people to be able to communicate with you in your language of choice in every situation. However, te reo Māori does have a special status under the law.

The Māori Language Act declares that te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand. In line with that official status, any person has the right to speak Māori in court (see: “Your right to speak te reo in court”). Apart from that, the status of te reo Māori as an official language is mostly symbolic, rather than giving you rights to use it in particular places outside of a courtroom.

Other state bodies, like government ministries and departments, should make sure people can use te reo Māori there, but that generally comes down to their policy, rather than a legal rule they have to follow.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori/The Māori Language Commission

Māori Language Act 2016, ss 37, 40 Māori Language Act 2016, ss 17–19

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) was first established by the 1987 Māori Language Act to develop and advise on ways of giving effect to the status of te reo as an official language of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and to promote it as a living language and an ordinary means of communication. The newer Act, Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016/Māori Language Act 2016, continued the Commission and its role. The Commission also grants official certificates of competency for interpreters and translators for te reo. For information on interpreters and translations in court cases, see: “Your right to speak te reo in court” below and “Translation of court documents into te reo”.

The 2016 Act also established a new independent body, Te Mātāwai, to represent iwi and Māori in providing input into Māori language strategy. Te Mātāwai provides leadership in promoting the health of te reo for iwi and Māori, including at the community level, and also supports and influences government initiatives aimed at promoting te reo.

Note:  The Māori Language Act 2016 carried over basically unchanged the rights contained in the previous Act, the Māori Language Act 1987. The 2016 Act did, however, make some changes to the organisational framework for promoting te reo.

Did this answer your question?

Te reo Māori (in English)

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Justice or your local court

If you would like to speak te reo Māori in court, complete the “Notice of Intention to Speak Māori” form that can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Find the forms here:

For all cases except civil (non-criminal) cases in the District and High Court: www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Forms/notice-of-intention-to-speak-maori-20170615-update.pdf

For civil cases in the District Court, visit the local court and ask for Form 4, “Notice of Intention to Speak Māori”.

For civil cases in the High Court, visit the local court and ask for Form G 12, “Notice of Intention to Speak Māori”.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori/Māori Language Commission

The Commission’s website has a range of information and resources, including an interpreter register and support for organisations.

Website: www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz
Email: info@tetaurawhiri.govt.nz
Phone: 04 471 0244
Instagram: www.instagram.com/reomaori/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/reomaori

Te Mātāwai

Te Mātāwai is an independent body led by iwi and the Māori community, committed to revitalising te reo Māori for the Māori people and Aotearoa collectively.

Website: www.tematawai.maori.nz
Email: patai@tematawai.maori.nz
Phone: 04 499 8907
Instagram: www.instagram.com/te_matawai/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeMatawai

The Legal Māori Resource Hub

Explore how Māori language has been used in legal contexts over nearly two centuries. A dictionary of Māori legal terms and the Legal Māori Corpus is also available.

Website: www.legalmaori.net

Te Puni Kōkiri/Ministry of Māori Development

Te Puni Kōkiri is the principal advisor on Government-Māori relationships. They monitor policy and legislation, and they provide government with high quality policy advice.

Website: www.tpk.govt.nz

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top