High Court claim by Māori iwi calls for judicial review of te reo Māori use in courts

The iwi say the native language remains "inconsequential" in NZ courts

High Court claim by Māori iwi calls for judicial review of te reo Māori use in courts

A joint claim filed by Northland iwi Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, Te Poari o Ngātiwai, Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi and Te Reo Ngāti Hine calls for the Auckland High Court to conduct a judicial review into the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand’s courts.

Even though the Māori Language Act passed in 2016 allows parties to communicate in te reo Māori during legal proceedings, the iwi say the native language plays second fiddle to English in courts across the country. They submitted that current legal rules, procedures and processes in place are not in line with the legislation and with te Tiriti o Waitangi, the NZ Herald reported.

“It is unacceptable in 2021 that te reo Māori remains an inconsequential language in the Court of Law and its decision makers,” Ngāti Wai representative Aperahama Edwards said in a statement published by the NZ Herald. “The first and dominant language in those settings is English and te reo Māori is treated as a very poor alternative option.”

The four applicants are jointly seeking a review of the decisions made by the Minister of Justice, the Secretary of Justice, and the Attorney General regarding the use of te reo Māori in legal proceedings. The goal of the suit is to ensure that the native language is properly recognised in court and its use given adequate support and resources.

Ngāti Rēhia spokesperson Kipa Munro attributed the initial recognition of te reo Māori as an official language in court to the “foresight” and “courage” of Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo, Huirangi Waikerepuru, Syd and Hana Jackson. However, despite years of campaigning, the iwi said that there has been “no real change” since the fight for te reo Māori was first brought before the bench.

Edwards noted that the difficulty in speaking te reo Māori in legal proceedings stems from the fact that the majority “do not understand the indigenous language of this land.”

“I’ve spoken Māori in many courts. I know how difficult it is to do so because the law and the courts turn a deaf ear to the indigenous language of this country,” he told Te Ao Māori News.

Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi representative Hone Sadler said that it had come to the iwi to “once again carry this issue and ensure the aspirations of those that began this fight are achieved, to ensure the mana of our reo is truly recognised.”

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