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Language Revitalisation

Te Māngai Pāho Position

Over the past 2 years Te Māngai Pāho has undertaken a careful re-examination of the literature around language revitalization and, guided by a significant research project, developed a view on how the theory of language revitalization might be better tailored to the specific needs of the Māori language revitalization environment and efforts.

The academic literature on language revitalization is well-developed and various theories have been applied in the development of strategies to address Māori language loss. These theories have also influenced how these strategies have been measured.

More recent research has highlighted the important impact of societal ideologies, and the value and attitudes attributed to the language by society, on language revitalization. Language values are an inherent factor of language choice amongst bilingual Māori communities. Against this background, current revitalization strategies emphasise shifting this ideology to advance the Māori language and encourage normalization across the nation. 

The ZePA model highlights how right-shifting the position of an individual from Zero – Passive – Active can strengthen the position of the language within society. The key difference is that the emphasis is not simply on moving directly from Zero to Active. Right-shifting an individual from Zero to Passive can generate increased awareness and support for language revitalization more broadly, and the subsequent right-shift from Passive to Active is then easier to achieve.

The evidence reported in the Te Puni Kōkiri surveys on the Health of the Māori Language suggests that there has been continued left-shifting in Aotearoa/New Zealand over time that has contributed to the decline of the language, leaving the language in the precarious state described by Te Paepae Motuhake.

To successfully revitalize the language, Māori language initiatives need to both stem the factors that support this left-shift and proactively encourage a right-shift – to increase the value, status and use of the language over time. Māori broadcasting is one such initiative. A review of international research also suggests that broadcasting can be a cost effective intervention to revitalize the language.

Innovation and Improving Performance

A key feature of the Government’s expectations for the State sector is an emphasis on innovation to deliver better outcomes at lower cost over time. Applying the right-shifting approach also suggests a need to innovate and to update Te Māngai Pāho’s strategy and activity in the following areas:

  • Focusing on the quality of te reo and programming 
  • Building capacity and capability in the broadcasting sector 
  • Seizing the opportunities presented by technology 
  • Securing greater leverage from Crown funding 

Quality, Capacity and Leverage are of particular importance to those considering responding to any RFP.


The critical role of the quality of te reo and of programming is a common theme across the Māori language revitalization literature and of the discussions Te Māngai Pāho has had. Consistently lifting quality is both an enduring challenge in its own right and a key factor that influences the effectiveness of broadcasting in generating a right-shift. The sector is well aware of the increased focus that Te Māngai Pāho has placed on language plans and language outcomes from programming over the last two or three years. The expectation is that there will be a continual improvement in the quality of the language plans within programme proposals and that applicants will also be able to demonstrate a commitment to improving the language quality within the programmes they produce.

Capacity and Capability

Te Māngai Pāho recognises that the broadcasting sector needs to be assisted to raise its capacity and capability in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori. The fulfillment of Te Māngai Pāho’s objectives and goals for te reo and tikanga Māori are dependent on the sector to deliver. A critical influence on the overall right-shift is the ability to continually improve the quality, depth and breadth of te reo Māori used by broadcasters, and of the tikanga they express. There is an opportunity for Te Māngai Pāho to use the Māori language plans developed by broadcasters and producers as an important component of the approach for achieving this focus on capability and capacity.


Greater leverage from Crown funding can be gained from improved co-operation at the Crown agency level by ensuring that initiatives are well planned, complementary and co-ordinated. For Te Māngai Pāho, it is also about being clear about the objectives being sought from our funding and being able to better demonstrate to taxpayers the impact and effectiveness of these initiatives so that they continue to attract Crown support. For example, programmes with multiple plays on different platforms, that engage audiences and provide a measurable impact, all contribute to this objective.

What Does This Mean for Producers?

The adoption of the 'Right Shift' approach is a response to the government’s drive for better outcomes and better results. Our aim is for the Māori broadcast sector to be able to demonstrate a tangible impact on Māori language and Māori cultural outcomes. Te Māngai Pāho therefore now has a greater emphasis on funding programmes that have a clear programming objective in terms of the 'Right Shift', ideally a means to measure that objective and a commitment to report on its impact.

A programme proposal should:

  • Outline an idea that demonstrates to the assessors how it will draw in its target audience
  • Include a Māori language and/or Māori cultural objective for the programme
  • Ideally, have a way of measuring or demonstrating its impact
  • Include a commitment to report on the objective
  • Outline the quality management processes planned to ensure high quality Māori language and cultural content
  • Respond to the other specific requirements of the RFP