Aotearoa petition: No longer a ’vicious response’ to te reo

Willie Jackson says every avenue must be used to promote the use of te reo Māori. - Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Adding Aotearoa to the country's official name is a good idea but the government has other priorities first, the acting minister for Māori development says.

Wellington man Danny Tahau Jobe has launched a petition for the matter to be put to a referendum.

While official documents such as passports and money mention Aotearoa, only the name New Zealand has official status.

Acting Minister of Māori Development and co-chair of the Labour Māori caucus Willie Jackson said he liked the idea.

"If we want the language to live we have to try every avenue to promote it so at that level obviously I would be a supporter but certainly I can't say that's the government's view or would be the government's view."

He said his colleagues in the 13-strong Māori Caucus were all strong advocates for the language so he would have a lot of support there.

"As a co-chair of the Māori Caucus I would certainly put it on our agenda in terms of debating it. I don't think there'd be much opposition to the principle of what he's saying but then we have to look at it in the pragmatic sense about how it's rolled out."

However, he said the political reality was that the government had other priorities and referendums were expensive.

"So it's not an issue that we've discussed over the last year or so but certainly I understand it's an issue for a lot of people out there so good on this bloke for putting it up."

He said it was an important debate to have with Māori coming more and more into focus.

"We are a country that's getting more mature by the day and our prime minister [Jacinda Ardern] is leading the way on that.

"If you put this up 20 years ago there would have been a vicious response but now you can see there is a lot of support for this sort of thing because our language is becoming more accepted. Te reo is being celebrated more."

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