Implementing the Māori Language Strategy.


The Māori Language Strategy (the Strategy) is a 25-year strategy to co-ordinate and prioritise government action in the area of Māori language revitalisation. It was produced jointly by Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori Development (TPK), and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori – the Māori Language Commission (Te Taura Whiri), approved by Cabinet in July 2003, and published in October 2003. The Strategy also outlines some important areas where Māori take the lead role in working to revitalise the Māori language.

The Strategy creates a framework of six lead agencies: TPK, Te Taura Whiri, Te Māngai Pāho – the Māori Broadcasting Funding Agency, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Education, and the National Library of New Zealand (the National Library). Each agency is responsible for leading an area or areas, such as Māori language education or Māori language broadcasting.

TPK’s responsibilities include co-ordinating, monitoring, and evaluating the Strategy. As part of this responsibility, TPK is to monitor progress towards the 25-year goals at five-year intervals. Also, Cabinet has directed a review of the Strategy in 2008/09 that will focus on various aspects of the Strategy, including outcomes, roles of the Government, and the relationships between Māori and the Government.

Why we did our audit

We did a performance audit to see whether the lead agencies responsible for implementing the Strategy were carrying out their roles effectively. Our aim was to provide assurance to Parliament on whether the Government’s Māori language revitalisation efforts were well co-ordinated and targeted through lead agencies’ implementation of the Strategy.

Audit scope and expectations

Our audit focused on three questions:

  • Has TPK co-ordinated Strategy work effectively?
  • Have the lead agencies carried out Strategy planning effectively?
  • Is TPK monitoring the outcomes of the Strategy and evaluating the effectiveness of the Government’s Māori language activities?

We did not examine activities the lead agencies might be carrying out to implement their Strategy plans as this was outside the scope of our audit. In general, Strategy planning by lead agencies had not progressed far enough to provide a structure against which to assess progress in each area.

We expected that TPK would be effectively and consistently carrying out its coordination, monitoring, and evaluation roles. TPK is also responsible for Māori language policy. We did not audit this aspect of TPK’s work in our audit, as commenting on policy is outside the mandate of the Auditor-General.

We expected that all lead agencies would have completed effective implementation plans within the deadlines set in the Strategy. An effective Strategy implementation plan should:

  • describe the agency’s area of responsibility, including a description of the stakeholders in that area;
  • describe how the agency intends to lead that area;
  • identify five-year outcomes that contribute to the 25-year goals of the Strategy, and the activities throughout the area of responsibility that will produce those outcomes;
  • describe the activities the agency intends to do to support Māori language revitalisation; and
  • describe ways of measuring progress towards the outcomes, including five-year targets.

What we found

Co-ordination and support by Te Puni Kōkiri

We found that, up to mid-2004, TPK was active in attempting to co-ordinate and support agencies to implement the Strategy. As part of its policy role, TPK was also working on policy and planning for whānau language development, and an information programme promoting the Māori language. However, the initial coordination and support offered to lead agencies was not appropriately targeted to effectively address the challenges faced by each agency, and by the lead agency group as a whole. In addition, lead agency commitment to Strategy planning was variable during this period. Agencies had difficulty completing their Strategy planning.

From mid-2004 to early 2005, TPK did little Strategy-related work, partly because of staffing changes. There was little contact between TPK and lead agencies during this time. This hiatus in communication, support, and co-ordination increased the difficulties lead agencies had in completing their Strategy planning.

In 2005, TPK re-engaged with the Strategy. The co-ordination and support offered to agencies is now better targeted, because TPK has a better understanding of each lead agency’s challenges and needs. TPK has a more flexible approach to how each agency can meet the Strategy planning requirements. Joint agency meetings to co-ordinate planning and share information also occur regularly.

TPK has two five-year outcomes for its co-ordination and monitoring role, which it is aiming to achieve by 2008. The outcomes are:

  • that all government Māori language policies and initiatives have a clear rationale centred on the Strategy; and
  • that all Māori language policies are appropriately co-ordinated to ensure a whole-of-government approach to Māori language revitalisation.

Achieving these outcomes by 2008, when the Strategy is due for review, will need sustained commitment to the Strategy and timely action by all lead agencies, including TPK.

Lead agency Strategy planning

Although lead agencies had prepared draft implementation plans, no agency had completed and finalised a plan that fully met the requirements of the Strategy by the 30 June 2004 deadline set by Cabinet.

Since then, TPK and the lead agencies have reconsidered how best to meet the planning requirements of the Strategy. Some agencies have continued to create implementation plans. In addition, agencies have worked to fulfil the planning requirements of the Strategy through other mechanisms, such as links to the Strategy in their Statements of Intent or making reference to the Strategy in other strategies.

Lead agencies need to advance their planning to fulfil the planning requirements of the Strategy as soon as possible. Meeting these requirements, including setting clear outcomes and targets, will provide direction and a basis for further action in the various areas of responsibility and across all lead agencies.

We found that lead agencies had experienced various challenges while trying to implement the Strategy. These challenges included:

  • a compressed initial timeframe to complete planning;
  • an initial lack of clarity about the role of agencies as leaders in their areas of responsibility;
  • lack of powers on the part of TPK to compel the lead agencies to implement the Strategy;
  • lack of powers on the part of lead agencies to compel stakeholders to implement the Strategy;
  • difficulty in setting reasonable outcomes and targets, particularly outcomes that require a contribution from stakeholders to be achieved; and
  • lack of designated resources for planning and implementation, and conflicting priorities within agencies.

Agencies have made progress in addressing these challenges. However, progress in planning and commitment to the Strategy, while improving, remains variable across the lead agencies.

Understanding and carrying out the role of leading their area of responsibility has proved a particular challenge for agencies that did not previously have an explicit focus on Māori language or strong relationships with relevant stakeholders in their areas of responsibility. Continued progress in implementing the Strategy will require lead agencies and TPK to work together to create shared understandings of how each lead agency can best fulfil the role of leading their area or areas of responsibility, including how best to work with stakeholders.

Te Taura Whiri and Te Māngai Pāho, the two agencies with the strongest focus on Māori language, have made the most progress in Strategy planning and in implementing that planning.

Monitoring and evaluation

TPK has fulfilled its role of monitoring the health of the Māori language through surveys of the health of the Māori language and attitudes to the Māori language.

Research New Zealand’s 2006 Survey on the Health of the Māori Language, published by TPK in July 2007, shows significant increases in the number of Māori adults who can speak, read, write, and understand the Māori language. It also indicates progress in re-establishing natural transmission of the language to the next generation, as more Māori adults are speaking in Māori to children in their homes and communities.

TPK has not yet evaluated the effectiveness and efficiency of the Government’s Māori language areas of responsibility using the monitoring and evaluation framework outlined in TPK’s draft Strategy implementation plan. This is, in part, because Strategy planning by lead agencies had not progressed far enough to provide a basis to assess progress in each area by 2005/06, when the initial evaluations were scheduled to begin.

However, TPK has carried out a broader research and policy assessment role across various areas related to Māori language. In our view, these activities, while useful in themselves, do not constitute systematic evaluations of the Māori language activities in the Government’s areas of responsibility.

We note that TPK’s general approach to evaluating other agencies’ activities has changed since 2003, moving towards ongoing monitoring rather than evaluations of past activities. Given this change, the evaluation framework set out in TPK’s implementation plan may no longer be appropriate.

TPK considers that the research and policy assessment activities it has carried out will allow it to complete the overall evaluation of New Zealand-wide effectiveness of government Māori language policies and initiatives that was scheduled for 2007/08 in its draft Strategy plan.

Our recommendations

Recommendation 1
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri ensure that its briefings to the Minister of Māori Affairs contain more detailed assessments of progress in implementing the Māori Language Strategy.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that each lead agency come to an explicit agreement with Te Puni Kōkiri about the best way for each agency to fulfil the Māori Language Strategy’s planning requirements and ensure that the requirements are fulfilled as agreed.

Recommendation 3
We recommend that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage engage more actively with key stakeholders in the Māori language arts area to encourage alignment between the stakeholders’ Māori language-related activities and the 25-year goals of the Māori Language Strategy.

Recommendation 4
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to identify how each lead agency can influence the stakeholders in its sector to take part in Māori Language Strategy planning and implementation.

Recommendation 5
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to create five-year Māori Language Strategy outcomes to provide a focus for lead agency and stakeholder activities throughout each area of responsibility.

Recommendation 6
We recommend that lead agencies identify shared outcomes where appropriate.

Recommendation 7
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri and the other lead agencies work together to create five-year targets to measure progress towards the five-year outcomes, and include these targets in future planning.

Recommendation 8
We recommend that lead agencies, in consultation with Te Puni Kōkiri, assess the work needed by each agency to effectively implement the Māori Language Strategy, and the resources needed to carry out that work.

Recommendation 9
We recommend that lead agencies consider how they will make available the resources needed to implement the Māori Language Strategy, and advise their Minister if current resources are not sufficient.

Recommendation 10
We recommend that, as part of the planned review of the Māori Language Strategy in 2008/09, the 10 areas of government responsibility for language revitalisation outlined by the Māori Language Strategy are prioritised for action.

Recommendation 11
We recommend that the 2008/09 review of the Māori Language Strategy clarify the nature and extent of Te Puni Kōkiri’s evaluation role concerning the Government’s Māori language activities.

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