[lg policy] New Zealand: Call for island languages to have official status

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 31 15:43:52 UTC 2012

Call for island languages to have official status

Published: 10:34AM Tuesday January 31, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Former Labour MP Winne Laban has called for the Tokelauan, Niuean and
Cook Islands languages to be accorded official status in New Zealand.
Ms Laban, now an associate professor at Victoria University, made the
call in a Waitangi Rua Rautau lecture outlining a Pacific perspective
on the Treaty of Waitangi. In her speech at Te Herenga Waka Marae at
the university, Ms Laban noted that English, Maori and New Zealand
sign language were the three official languages.

"New Zealand has the responsibility of ensuring that the languages of
the realm and our near neighbours are preserved. "The people of
Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands are New Zealand citizens and New
Zealand has constitutional responsibilities. "After English, Samoan is
the most daily spoken language in New Zealand. Why are these languages
not 'official' in New Zealand?"

The Maori Language Act 1987 declared Maori to be an official language
and created a right to use Maori in court proceedings. The associated
Maori Language Commission was also established.

"New Zealand does not have a Pacific language policy.

"Perhaps it is time for the development of a language policy to
protect, maintain and rejuvenate Pacific languages spoken in New
Zealand," Ms Laban said. Race relations conciliator Joris de Bres said
Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands remained a part of the "New Zealand
realm".  All had a majority of their population living in New Zealand
and language retention in New Zealand was vital to the survival of
their languages.

There were 265,974 people who identified themselves as Pacific in the
2006 census, representing around 7% of the total population.
Samoans are the largest group at 131,103, followed by Cook Islanders
at 58,011. At the time of the 2006 census there were 22,476 Niueans in
New Zealand and 6819 Tokelauans.  Pacific Island Affairs Minister
Hekia Parata was unavailable for comment last night.


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