Te Ture mō te Reo Māori 2016 - The Māori Language Act 2016 – is significantly different from the original Māori Language Act 1987.
The original Act declared Māori to be an official language of New Zealand, established the Māori Language Commission (later Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori), empowered it to give effect to the official status of te reo, transferred responsibility for the recognition of translators and interpreters to the Commission and provided for the use of te reo Māori in court proceedings.
The 2016 Act, in addition to continuing the roles set out in the 1987 Act, created a new statutory body called Te Matawai. Te Matawai is government funded and works under a purchase agreement with the Minister for Māori Development. Te Matawai represents and leads revitalisation among Māori, iwi and communities. It issues a strategy called Te Maihi Māori which complements the Crown strategy Te Maihi Karauna. A ‘maihi’ is one of the two barge boards in the front of a carved whare. The symbolism in the Act is of te Whare o Te Reo Mauriora a concept developed to represent an on-going partnership between the Crown and Māori for revitalisation of te reo Māori. Te Matawai also recommends appointments to the Minister for other Māori language bodies.
The 2016 Act gives the Māori Language Commission the role of leading the coordination of the Maihi Karauna, a cross-government role greatly expanding its influence.
Another effect of the Act was to transfer responsibility for Crown-funded grants for revitalisation (such as the successful Mā te Reo scheme) from the Commission to Te Matawai.
The 2016 Act exists in a te reo Māori version and an English language version. In the event of a conflict between the two versions, the te reo Māori version takes precedence. This is the first Act to include this provision.
The Act also states that the Crown: “acknowledges the detrimental effects of its past policies and practices that have, over the generations, failed actively to protect and promote the Māori language and encourage its use by iwi and Māori” and “expresses its commitment to work in partnership with iwi and Māori to continue actively to protect and promote this taonga, the Māori language, for future generations”.