• Posted on: 16/11/2023
  • 2 minutes to read

The decision by the Foreign Affairs and Trade to remove te reo from Ministerial correspondence before new Ministers are sworn in risks undermining the important progress the public sector has made in honouring te Tiriti.

"We are very disappointed in what is a backward decision - it simply seems to be a Ministry bowing to the racist rhetoric we heard on the election campaign trail," said Marcia Puru, Acting Te Kaihautū Māori for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

"We are staggered Foreign Affairs has made this call before new Ministers are even sworn in - all ministries should be waiting for a clear direction from Ministers who themselves should be upfront with the public about their commitment to te reo.

"We have made such good progress as a country in honouring te Tiriti and breathing life into te reo Māori which has a special status as an official language.

"Our public sector has shown great leadership in this regard and all that now risks being undone. MFAT’s decision is a damaging step that if replicated across the public service would threaten the progress we have made as a nation in recent years in fostering healthy race relations.

"What kind of commitment to the Crown’s obligations to Te Tiriti does this represent? Has the chief executive of MFAT been paying lip service to the Government’s relationship with Māori until there is a change of government? Or does he just not understand what his comments do to the recognition of te reo Māori as an offical language of New Zealand and to the respect of Māori as Tangata Whenua.

"We totally agree with the some 300 MFAT workers who have protested this change and agree with them that this erodes trust in the Ministry’s commitment to te Tiriti. It is integral to their workplace culture and enriches our diplomatic presence around the world.

"This is the thin end of the wedge and must be resisted. The PSA will be raising this issue with chief executives urging them to resist this backsliding. We are pointing out that they have a legal obligation under the Public Sector Act 2020 to support the Crown’s relationship with Māori, and to develop a workplace culture that supports Māori aspirations.

"MFAT’s decision on te reo clearly flies in the face of this. The PSA urges members to make their views on the importance of te reo to their employers before MFAT’s decision becomes more common place," said Marcia Puru.