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Michael Coote

The Great Maori Language Rort

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The great Maori language rort is one of a series of frauds being perpetrated on New Zealanders by part-Maori looters of taxpayer funds and Crown assets (or in the case of the foreshore and seabed, ex-Crown assets).

The systematic looting of the Crown and taxpayers by part-Maori (today’s racial reality of the descendents of New Zealand’s prehistoric Polynesian colonisers) is so widely pervasive and inflicted on so many fronts and guises that it is not always easy for ordinary New Zealanders to gain an understanding of its breathtaking scale and audacity.

A fascinating insight into looting in the name of preserving and fostering Maori language was afforded by a couple of articles published recently and the report that lay behind them.

A new way of looting taxpayers proposed

The first article, entitled “Government support for Maori language plan uncertain”, announced the release of the final report of an independent Maori language review panel, Te Paepae Motuhake, on how to prevent Maori language dying out.

Article link: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/maori/news/article.cfm?c_id=252&objectid=10719065

To most New Zealanders, who are constantly having their noses rubbed in Maori language and told that is good for them, it will come as something of a surprise that the language is in crisis.

But in dire crisis it is, according to the bilingual report, Te Reo Mauriora, which stated the problem as being that between 2001 and 2006, the percentage of part-Maori who spoke the Maori language had fallen from 25.2% to 23.7%.

Report link: http://www.tpk.govt.nz/_documents/te-reo-mauriora.pdf

This supposedly alarming decline represents a minor 6% contraction that might be accounted for in the rise of the part-Maori birth rate and could hardly be regarded as the beginning of the end for Maori as a spoken language.

However, in line with the endless appeasement and bottomless compensation mentality of the Waitangi Tribunal, which published the figures in 2010, Te Paepae Motuhake has played along with the Maori-language-facing-extinction propaganda that is calculated to continue extortion from taxpayers.

The report concluded that, “The results of 25 to 30 years of Government spend on revitalisation strategies could only be termed ‘patchy’” (p. 5).

The “solutions”, according to the report, are to consolidate the entire Maori language budget under a single Minister of Maori Language and to channel the money into teaching tribal dialects to part-Maori children in their homes.

Apart from a new minister, a new bureaucracy would be needed, because teaching Maori language in the home would involve doing so in its seven regional dialects, and not in the “standard” Maori language taught in schools and propagated through the media and entertainment industry now.

The cost?  Some $600 million dollars per year of taxpayers’ money, but more of that later.

Vested interests start to scrap

Needless to say, these ideas weren’t music to the ears of either the Minister of Maori Affairs or the Minister of Finance, to judge by the way they responded by damning the report with faint praise.

Pita Sharples – who commissioned the report – would not have been pleased by withering criticism of the performance of his ministry as a patron of Maori language and the suggestion of a big carve out of his powers as Minister of Maori Affairs.

Bill English, faced with imposing an austerity budget, is trying to trim back expenditure on part-Maori looting, rather than see it preserved and switched to other applications.

Apparently Mr Sharples overstepped the mark in the way he tried to monopolise the official part-Maori response to the report, because a second article published the next day and entitled “Sharples’ letter ‘gags’ commission” had the Maori Language Commission hitting back with allegations he had tried to prevent it from making its own public comment to the media.

Article link: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/maori/news/article.cfm?c_id=252&objectid=10719383

The Commission could stand to be one of the casualties of any reorganisation involving establishing a Ministry of Maori Language and so, like all part-Maori grievance industry gravy trains, has its own vested interests in survival and self-perpetuation.

Great Maori language rort revealed

Actually, we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Sharples for commissioning Te Reo Mauriora and to Te Paepae Motuhake for producing it, because between them they have scored a rare own goal on the part of the normally secretive and deceptive part-Maori looting industry by exposing for all to see what is really happening with the Maori language rort.

Readers are urged to download Te Reo Mauriora and peruse it thoroughly for themselves, because they will find wrapped up in a single document what is going on in conning taxpayers into “saving” Maori language.

Although it runs to nearly 100 pages, the report is written half in Maori and half in English via page-for-page translation, and is padded out with photographs and textual repetitions, so there is less to grapple with than might first seem.

It is not possible to cover every aspect of the report in detail within this article, and so comments are made selectively on some aspects of what it says and what it doesn’t say.

What the report says

On what the report does say, certain matters stand out.

Tribes of the seven Maori regional dialects want the government’s entire Maori language budget handed over to them so that they can teach their respective dialects to their children in the home.

The supposed good arising is that Maori language will survive and the percentage of its part-Maori speakers can be targeted to increase to 80% in several decades’ time.

This demand represents a huge and ongoing direct transfer of taxpayer wealth across to part-Maori households to do what most parents do anyway, namely teaching their kids to speak at least one language in the home, or more than one if the household is bilingual or multi-lingual.

The report explicitly shifts the alleged essence of cultural identity for part-Maori from speaking the Maori language to speaking the Maori dialect of their tribal region.  

This redefinition is couched in alleged rights and entitlements under the Treaty of Waitangi and more particularly the UN’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).

It will be recollected that the National-led government of that political idiot savant John Key permitted Mr Sharples to sneak off secretly to New York and sign us all up to DRIP.

Mr Key is even quoted approvingly in the report as telling us how wonderful that UN-sponsored commitment to institutionalised racism would be for this country.

We see the implications of DRIP start to leak out in a supposed right for part-Maori to learn Maori language in tribal dialect with government support.

This “right” if translated into public policy would enormously complicate the business of teaching a tribally balkanised language to comparatively small groups of people scattered about the country and perhaps reveals why efforts put into teaching “standard” Maori may not have got as much traction as expected.

But the above matters relate to proposals and the greater scandal of the report lies in what it reveals about current realities.

For example, it is stated that many tribes are not using their Treaty settlements on funding learning of Maori language by their own people, having other priorities such as economic development that come first, or simply being too disorganised even to consider the matter.

What does this say about actual supply and demand for Maori language among tribes, given especially that the report bangs on relentlessly about the unique and over-arching status the language deserves as the essence of Maori cultural identity?

If tribes endowed with Treaty settlements can’t or won’t organise themselves to spend much or any of that windfall on teaching Maori language to their own children, why are taxpayers from outside these tribes called upon to make good the funds required?

Moreover, many adult speakers of Maori language choose not to teach it to their children, the report confesses, ominously going on to urge that these people should come under tribal coercion to do so.

So much for parental freedom of choice, including forming the view that it could be unnecessary or counterproductive for one’s own children to learn Maori language.

The staggering cost of Maori language looting

And what about funding? Throughtout Te Reo Maiuriora it is reiterated that the government has the obligation to “support” the Maori language – meaning to foot the bill for everything connected with it – and this is where we come to the magical number of $600 million per year (see Review of Maori Language Sector and Strategy 2011 – page 55).

It is perhaps the report’s focus on this eye-watering number that most embarrassed the government and more particularly Mr Sharples, coming out as it did on the eve of a new austerity budget.

But the report’s authors Te Paepae Motuhake actually got the number out of a report by Te Puni Kokiri – Mr Sharples’ own ministerial department.

According to appendices in Te Reo Maurora, the department’s inventory of Maori language expenditure from all government sources as at June 30, 2009, gave a budget breakdown which we have tabulated below (from p. 87):  

Government department Dollar spend (millions) Percentage of total
Education 502.2 84.25
Maori Language Broadcasting Commission 56.7 9.51
Maori Television Service 13.0 2.18
Ministry of Culture 13.8 2.32
Maori Language Commission 5.5 0.92
Ministry of Maori Development 4.7 0.82
Grand totals 596.1 100

Thus nearly $600 million was blown in just one year providing taxpayer-funded Maori language “support” to the population of part-Maori, of whom just 24% actually spoke the language fluently in 2006.

And Te Paepae Motuhake argues that this same annual expenditure should be handed directly to tribes so they can teach Maori dialects to their own kids at home.

Mr Sharples must be ruing the day he appointed Te Paepae Motuhake only to have them come back to bite him on his ample backside, and worse by publicising and politicising the $600 million per year.

What the report doesn’t say

The report questions whether value for money is being derived from throwing $600 million per year at Maori language under the current system and concludes it isn’t.

But the report does not even question the figure of $600 million itself as the sum “available” to hand over to Maori tribes under its new proposed system.

No thought is expressed about whether $600 million is too much, could be better applied elsewhere, or represents value for money to taxpayers, its ultimate source.

Not considered is the blindingly obvious, namely that if all this money were given to tribes for teaching their own children how to speak Maori dialect in the home, then surely there will still be at least some residual demand following from that for Maori language in schools, universities, publishing and broadcasting.

How is the rest to be funded?  Surely, would come the reply, from more government “support”.

Thus the authors of the report take the rest of us for a pack of fools where they try to pass off as the “final solution” to the pseudo-crisis in Maori language the teaching of Maori dialects in the home by tribes paid to do so by the government.

The report had input from 15 hui Te Paepae Motuhake conducted around the country and also from various government departments.

Predictably Te Paepae Motuhake heard back from vested interests it invited along that Maori language was an exquisitely precious treasure and the veritable quintessence of Maori cultural identity, most especially in its infinitely valuable dialects.

Yet nowhere in the report is there any serious intellectual or scientific effort put into finding exactly why – despite an enormous supply of government “support” over 25 to 30 years, exploding into almost $600 million per annum public expenditure by 2009 – there is such tepid actual demand from part-Maori for spoken Maori language.

Answering the demand-side question is surely crucial to determining what to do on the supply side where so much money is getting so few tangible results outside of employing a lot of hangers-on within the Maori language looting industry.

Lack of justification

The report provides no substantive economic justification for pouring hundreds of millions of public dollars into Maori language each year, coming up instead with rights-based arguments, vague statements about how we are all somehow better off if more part-Maori speak some form of Maori language, plus some passing references to the value of the language to sports and tourism.

For a government report that seriously recommends how to spend $600 million per year of taxpayer funds in an untried and unanalysed manner, this is an absolute disgrace, and reveals another waste of taxpayer funds in footing the costs of Te Paepae Motuhake and all those hui.

The report is self-serving and deceitful in the way it focuses on children speaking Maori language at home as the sole criterion of how at-risk the language really is.

Using an Intergenerational Language Transmission “endangerment” scale for language speakers derived from UNESCO (2009), the authors decree that Maori language sits between being “definitely endangered” and “critically endangered” (p. 17).

Ignored completely by the report is that Maori language exists in written form (witness the report’s own bilingual text), and has been extensively recorded in its spoken form for archival and academic research purposes, not to mention those 24% of speakers who represent one part-Maori in four.

To try and tell us Maori language faces extinction based on tendentious use of a UNESCO scale that would have most relevance to an indigenous language that did not have a reasonable number of speakers, was not recorded to any great extent in its spoken form, and did not have a written form, falls not far short of barefaced lying.

But of course the focus on Maori language learning in the home is the foregone conclusion that the report reverse-engineers its “evidence” to support and the UNESCO scale is just what the doctor ordered for that purpose.

Where is the voluntary input by tribes into Maori language in the home?

Perhaps the most screaming omission of the report is its absence of detail on what the voluntary sector of the part-Maori community could do to help teach more Maori language in the home.

The untested assumption of the report is that teaching in the home can only be undertaken successfully if tribes are handed hundred of millions of dollars.

It’s a reasonable question, considering all the hui input on how important Maori language is, and how that language is dying, to ask about voluntary input from part-Maori communities into the teaching, fostering, preservation, and advancement of Maori language for the benefit of their own children.

It’s not as if there aren’t enough suitable venues, with all the recently built marae littered around the country that were another gift courtesy of the taxpayer, paid for during the Clark years.

In some parts of the country these marae are but a short distance apart because local sub-tribes couldn’t agree on sharing the facilities, so they each got one.

What we find instead in the report is a pervasive entitlement mentality that expresses itself in the view that part-Maori have the absolute right to be taught Maori language in their desired form and that the government – and behind it the taxpayer – have the absolute obligation to pay for the costs of exercising that right.

The lazy, parasitic, chip-on-the-shoulder entitlement mentality that oozes out of the report is perhaps its most offensive aspect.

Pacific Island contrast

In a Dominion Post article entitled “Pacific Island education plan”, a huge contrast to this entitlement mentality is evident.

The article is concerned with the relatively low rates of Pacific Island students passing university entrance.

Article link: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/4912843/Call-for-Pacific-education-plan

Victoria University assistant vice-chancellor (Pasifika) Winnie Laban was quoted as saying that “community collaboration” was the way to resolve the socio-economic and language disadvantages of young Pacific Islanders.

Ms Laban advocated homework centres in churches, schools and other centres.

“The schools, the families, the communities, business, the voluntary sector [should] partner up to really build on [academic] programmes – and if they’re not in place, to put them in place,” she said.

What an extraordinary contrast in Ms Laban’s suggestions for voluntary Pacific Island community input into the academic coaching of its young people, versus the “can’t do” attitude of part-Maori tribes unless they are further welfarised by massive taxpayer handouts to teach Maori language to their own children.

On the one hand, you have the idea of people willingly rolling up their sleeves to get on with the job out of their own freely given resources, whereas on the other hand, you have shameless beggars demanding a bigger koha before they feel sufficiently motivated to address what they themselves define as an impending crisis of language extinction.


New Zealand’s Crown and taxpayers are being looted systematically by part-Maori in the name of compensation for real and imagined breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, and now more latterly under the UN aegis of DRIP. 

One of the most egregious forms of this racist daylight robbery is the great Maori language rort.

The report Te Reo Mauriora has at least done a public service in exposing the ugly underbelly of Maori language looting inflicted on taxpayers.

It’s high time for taxpayers to stand up to and resist being filched from any longer in the name of Treaty grievances and DRIP ukases.

They could start with the vast sums being extracted from them to fritter away on the Maori language.