Investing in Te Reo television didn’t result in more people learning the language or even wanting to, and I cannot tell you how happy this makes me! Not the waste of money, you understand, nor that I discourage learning Te Reo, because I don’t. I simply object to having it foisted on me or anyone else for that matter.

I am celebrating because the public rejected the government trying to force Te Reo on us. We said no, we said learning Te Reo is a choice and we will learn it if we choose to but not because we are forced to. Good on us!

The government’s investment in Te Reo did not pay off, either because they misjudged the public appetite (they probably didn’t bother to canvass mainstream Maori but caved to Maori activists) or were foiled by their own delusions of grandeur. This is not the first time the government’s political aspirations have wafted in the breeze high above their ability to deliver. It’s now a government trait.

Whatever. Maori television ratings hit rock bottom and, to regain the lost ground and grow back their audience, Maori Television want to revert and reintroduce more English speaking programmes.

A Maori woman working in mainstream television got a little hot under the collar about that. Shouldn’t Maori do what they are told? Annabelle Lee-Mather, producer of The Hui, wants to invest in more Te Reo programming, not less, and her reasoning is hilariously flawed.

Lee-Mather says if the government wants mainstream Te Reo then they should have it. This is a fair argument when you are obliged to carry out the wishes of your paymaster and she doesn’t think Maori Television should walk away from that responsibility either.

Why would anyone chuck good money after bad? Is there plenty more where that came from? Have mainstream media not burned through their government funding as quickly as Maori television?

“After months of hearing senior members of government speaking about the importance of plurality in New Zealand’s media, and tens of millions of dollars being spent on achieving that (through government support packages), I couldn’t believe that this was their solution.”

Annabelle Lee-Mather

Anyone still under the misapprehension that Maori are united in promoting Te Reo should think again: Maori didn’t push for this language revival, the government did. It is very heartening for those of us worried about the looming threat of a racial divide, to realise that the push is coming from Maori activists, completely out of touch with their people.

Lee-Mather protecting her job at The Hui brings into focus where Te Reo advocates reside. They are not in the majority of Maori homes up and down the country where viewers must be getting thoroughly annoyed after switching from unintelligible Maori Television to find mainstream media doing the very same thing!

The minimal public appetite for learning Te Reo is restricted to government employees told to learn it or leave, and media paid to insult us by chattering away unintelligibly. Media will look back at their foibles in horror when common sense prevails. Which it will. Eventually.

The powers that be should get this through their thick heads: WE do not have an overwhelming inclination to learn Te Reo! And guess what? Even after spending tens of millions of dollars cultivating Te Reo, Willie Jackson says “most of us still don’t speak it”. What an admission of government failure and a horrible waste of money.

The New Zealand I know and love and want to retain is not “them and us”, it is “We“. We speak English because we want to communicate well with each other. Some of us speak another language because English is not our first language, or we choose to communicate with those who speak another language.

We will not be forced into a behaviour just because the government misguidedly mandates it. To say that I am relieved to discover most of us agree on this is a huge understatement. The implications are huge.

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Tens of Millions of Dollars Wasted on Te Reo Television Programming


Suze is an avid reader and writer after a career in accounting starting in the farming industry. 10 years working in the NZ mining industry made her passionate about accessing our resource potential whilst...