The Maori Language Act came into force, making te reo Māori an official language of New Zealand. It could now be used in some legal proceedings. The Act also established Te Komihana Mo Te Reo Maori – the Maori Language Commission (in 1991 this was renamed Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Maori).
At the beginning of the 19th century the Māori language (te reo Māori) was the predominant language spoken in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As more English speakers arrived in New Zealand, speaking Māori was increasingly confined to Māori communities. By the mid-20th century there were concerns that the language was dying out. Major initiatives launched from the 1980s have brought about a revival of te reo. In the early 21st century, more than 130,000 people of Māori ethnicity could speak and understand te reo.
In 1985 the Waitangi Tribunal heard the Te Reo Māori claim. This asserted that te reo was a taonga (treasure) that the Crown (government) was obliged to protect under the Treaty of Waitangi. The Waitangi Tribunal found in favour of the claimants and recommended a number of legislative and policy remedies. One of these was the Maori Language Act, which made Māori an official language of New Zealand alongside English. (In 2006, New Zealand Sign Language became the country's third official language.)
The Act established the Maori Language Commission to promote the use of Māori as a living language and as an ordinary means of communication.
Image: Māori language class, 1981