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The making of New Zealand’s first attempted national language policy – the Aoteareo document.

The whole concept of a national languages policy for New Zealand had been under discussion during the 1980s and 1990s (Kaplan, 1994). As has been mentioned above, it had been mainly language interest groups that had been the drivers of the movement towards formulating a national language policy. One of these groups, the New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (NZALT) “had been interested in a comprehensive policy almost since its inception in 1974” (Peddie, 1997, p. 132). In the early 1980s, NZALT had written to a number of government ministries enquiring whether they had a policy on languages. In the mid-1980s, the then Māori and Islands Division of the Ministry in New Zealand had drawn up their own language policies with particular help from Christopher Hawley who was a member of the then Department of Education (Hilary Smith, 2004). May notes that “the Aoteareo Report emerged from a National Language Taskforce set up in the late 1980s” (2005b, p.1).
In 1988, English as a Second Language group (ESL) and community languages met in Wellington for a national conference. A representative group from this conference drew up proposals for a national languages policy. “They released a bilingual document Towards a National Languages Policy: Hei putake mo tetahi kaupapa reo mo Aotearoa” (Hilary Smith, 2004, p. 14).
Late 1989 a delegation headed by Walter Hirsh, former Race Relations Conciliator and a long-time supporter of language policy development, met with both the (Labour) Minister and the Associate Minister of Education…a delegation again met with the Minister of Education early in 1990. (Peddie,
1997, p. 133)
The Minister of Education at the time, Phillip Goff, was supportive of the idea of a language policy and a contract with the Ministry of Education was taken up by Jeffrey Waite (Waite, 1992). Waite was a former member of the Māori Language Commission. However, in October 1990, there was a change of Government (from Labour to National) and Waite‟s discussion document, Aoteareo, was scheduled to be presented to the new Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith, by December 31, 1991.
The actual report was published the next year in 1992. The Document: Aoteareo Speaking for Ourselves This discussion document was published in two parts: Part A, The Overview, and Part B, The Issues. The report made a range of key recommendations, highlighting the following key constituencies who would benefit from a language policy: Māori, Pasifika and other migrant groups; New Zealanders learning international languages, and the New Zealand Deaf Community. May sums up the contents of the document: Aoteareo provides a considered, comprehensive and cohesive approach to language rights, language planning, and language education in New Zealand.
(2007, p. 2) With such accolades one wonders why this draft language policy did not become more than a discussion document. May observes:
Part of the reason for the failure of the Aoteareo Report to have any significant impact on policy (or, more simply, any impact) is that the final published document was shorn of any formal recommendations –ending up merely as a discussion document, with all that implies about likely further (in)action. This occurred because of official reticence about targeting specific funding for such a project. (2005b, p. 3)

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Corpus Planning
Acquisition Planning Via Education
Languages in New Zealand
Language Policy and New Zealand
The document Aoteareo
The Australian Language Policy
Welsh and Wales
Pre-European Colonisation to the 21st Century
Māori in Australia
The Māori Language Today
Learning Māori in New Zealand Today

Te Reo Māori and a New Zealand Language Policy: Prospects and Possibilities

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