Te Reoglish: the Negation of New Zealand English

In the name of saving from extinction the Maori language (te reo Maori or simply te reo), New Zealand authorities have embarked on a unique project, breathtaking in its scope and ambition: to demote, hybridise or replace NZ English, the first language of the vast majority of the country, as best they can.  

New Zealanders are being led to believe that only way to revitalise the one language is via a full-frontal assault on the other.

The Policy

In 2019, following the passing of the Maori Language Act of 2016, the Maori Language Commission produced the Maihi Karuna (The Crown Strategy for Maori Language Revitalisation 2019-2023).  The  purpose of the Strategy is to ‘protect and promote the Maori language’.  However the text boasts of a ‘bold vision […] different from others that have come before it’. There are three ‘audacious goals’, the first of which is that people actually have to embrace the project with enthusiasm (or else?).

  1. ‘By 2040, 85 per cent of New Zealanders (or more) will value te reo Māori as a key element of national identity’
  2. ‘By 2040, one million New Zealanders (or more) will have the ability and confidence to talk about at least basic things in te reo Māori’
  3. By 2040, 150,000 Māori aged 15 and over will use te reo Māori as much as English

The idea, apparently, is to create a bilingual country. 

‘when you travel internationally, you realise how common, and normal multi-lingual communities are. And if you are like me, you think how awesome it would be if more people spoke te reo Māori in Aotearoa and we were a truly bilingual country. (Nanaia Mahuta, p.5)

But not as other countries know the term, ie providing texts, signage and education opportunities in more than one language.   The aim is to impose Te Reo on the whole populace, willy-nilly.

‘Kia māhorahora te reo – Every day, by everyone, every way, everywhere […] te reo Māori is a normal part of daily life for wider Aotearoa New Zealand where te reo is used by everyone, every day, every way and everywhere.’

It will not be possible to work in the broader public service, consisting of around 2,900 organisations and employing 404,000 people, without being able to speak Maori.

‘In order for the Crown to recognise the value of the Māori language, and to deliver quality services
to Māori communities, it needs to ensure the public sector can “speak’”the language itself. By doing
so, it will have both a direct and indirect impact on language revitalisation. .

The strategies for achieving the goals include:

  • Insisting on ‘correct’ pronunciation of words of Maori derivation, while assuming that words from English should be adapted to Maori phonology and spelling;
  • Replacement: replacing English words with Maori words which are not usual in the context; dotting texts with terms that are completely unknown to non-speakers of Maori;
  • Insisting that all naming be in Maori, whether it be urban spaces, libraries or policies;
  • Consciously using government texts on unrelated matters as a tool for language instruction
  • Bribing the mainstream media to apply the above strategies.

‘Correct pronunciation’

Arguably the process of conscious Te Reofication started in 1979 when Victoria University linguistics lecturer Harry Orsman published his Heinemann New Zealand Dictionary. There is a time-honoured practice of adapting foreign borrowings to the phonology, cadences, spelling of the receiving language: everything from sine die to champagne to the numerous examples from English borrowed into Maori.  However Orsman  chose to cross the line from descriptive to prescriptive linguistics when he decided that the original Maori pronunciation (to the extent that it is agreed) should be preferred to common Kiwi usage.  New Zealanders who had never known any pronunciation for the kakapo bird other than /kakəˌpoʊ/ (kackerpoe), found that the ‘real’ New Zealand pronunciation was /ka:ka:pɔ:/ (kahkahpaw).  In his note on Maori words and pronunciation, Orsman argued disingenuously that:

‘[…] the trend in New Zealander is towards the use of formal Maori pronunciation rather than uninformed [sic] anglicization.  Thus what may at first appear an anomaly is in fact in keeping with the standard approach to pronunciation in this dictionary – common usage’

This anti-intuitive policy does not apply to English words borrowed into Maori, which are automatically adapted to that language.

Language replacement

Following the move to ‘correct pronunciation’, official policy has made other linguistic concessions to the sensibilities of Maori radicals: saying Maori instead of Maoris, establishing Kia Ora (probably a neologism) as a formal greeting to introduce speeches and correspondence, saying te Reo instead of Maori (language).  However since the release of  policies to implement the 2016 Act, the pace of change has accelerated dramatically.  Wellington City Council produced its own policy in 2018, with a stated vision of ‘Wellington: A te reo capital city by 2040’.  And they’re serious.  Compare Wellington City Council’s home page of 2020, with the current page.

Note that many of these concepts are expressed in Maori with vocabulary borrowed from English, though now just about unrecognisable as they have been adapted to Maori phonology and spelling (as you would expect).


Every public institution (and many private), every policy, every concept, every public space is given a Maori name which should there actually be an English name, takes precedence.  Government departments are given Maori names which are increasingly used on their own without translation:  The Ministry of Transport is routinely referred to as simply Waka Kotahi; the Climate Change Commission is He Pou a Rangi. The Maori Language Commission is now Te Taurawhiri, and the URL for its language policy is  https://www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz/en/te-reo-maori/maihi-karauna/. 

The Biodiversity Strategy of the Department of Conservation (DOC) is now Te Mana o te Taiao: 

The strategic framework for Te Mana o te Taiao sets out how the different components of the strategy work together to achieve the long-term vision of Te Mauri Hikahika o te Taiao.

No meaning is offered for Te Mana o te Taiao; that of Te Mauri Hikahika o te Taiao is given in a box.  The vast majority of New Zealanders would not be able to explain the meaning of  the names being imposed on them.

The Wellington City Council’s Maori language policy is called Te Tauihu;  Wellington City Council committees have been given Maori names, which councillors are expected to use in preference to the English ones.  Civic Square is now Te Ngakau Civic Precinct while the Wellington Public Library has been renamed the mouthful Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui – it looks like every library in Wellington will have a Maori name which takes precedence over or replaces an existing English name.  Subject headings within new libraries naturally give greater precedence to the Maori version.

NZ cities have been given Maori names, which increasingly replace the traditional ones, with no discussion.


Wanganui or Whanganui is a town in the central North Island, but Te Whanganui-a-Tara seems to be a recently coined term for for Wellington.  Wellington’s DomPost recently published an article in its travel pages which appeared to refer to an (obscure) attraction in or near New Plymouth, but it gradually becomes clear that the subject of the title is actually the city itself. 

We can expect increasing pressure to change the names of small towns.  Currently there is a proposal to change the name of the town of Maxwell to Pakaraka, on the basis of a disputed claim that its namesake, George Maxwell, was involved in a massacre.  

Replacing English terms with the Maori equivalent

It goes without saying that NZ English has borrowed words from Maori (so let’s get that of the way), most notably native flora and fauna, as well as many place names.  However it is now policy to artificially insert into English texts Maori vocabulary, even whole phrases.  Words which have already been borrowed into English though not in common usage (being mostly used in a Maori context) are now mandatory, for example the word whanau must replace the word for family in every context, e.g the track and trace notice for Covid-19.  Government texts and media articles are sprinkled with terms which are completely unfamiliar to the majority of New Zealanders, sometimes explained, sometimes not.  A goal expressed in the language revitalisation strategy, ‘Te reo Maori is seen, read, heard by Aotearoa Whaanui’, uses a term, whaanui, which has probably never before appeared within an English text.

A newsletter of the former Royal Society of New Zealand, now reincarnated as the heavily political body Royal Society Te Apārangi, well illustrates the policy.  The newsletter is headed ‘Kia ora from Royal Society Te Apārangifollowed by He wahine ngākau mahaki, he wahine toa (translated) and finishes with Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini (translated).  It refers to Aotearoa (not New Zealand) and to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (not Wellington).  The text is dotted with Maori terminology such as whare (house, in English more often shed but rarely heard now, meaning in this context incomprehensible), mātauranga, mihi maioha, wāhine toa.  Most are totally unfamiliar  – the fact that many are guessable from the context does not make them any the less alien.

TV1’s newsreaders, as well as using Maori greetings to begin the broadcast, regularly use a Maori expression after a commercial break – the context (and only the context), suggests that it means something like ‘welcome back’.

Communication takes second place to NZ-style bilingualism.  Where other countries publish important texts either as separate documents, or at least having the languages completely separate, NZ documents like the Maori Language Act  alternate Maori and English text throughout, so that they are just about impossible to read on-line. 

Every text must be a conscious language learning tool

Government texts such as the Department of Conservation’s Biodiversity Strategy have as a primary goal the promotion of the Maori language. 

‘Mauri and kaitiakitanga
Mauri is the life principle or living essence contained in all things, animate and inanimate.
Te mana atua kei roto i te tangata ki te tiaki i a ia, he tapu.  The concept of mauri reflects ideas of interconnectedness, resilience and wellbeing of nature. Mauri reflects the intrinsic value of nature, but also our obligation to be stewards of its health.
Kaitiakitanga can be described as the obligation to nurture and care for the mauri of a taonga; the ethic of guardianship, protection of that which is sacred. ‘

Through language DOC achieves a romanticisation of the Maori connection to the environment:

‘Tangata whenua are exercising their role as kaitiaki
Kaitiakitanga is the obligation, arising from the kin relationship, to nurture or care for a person, place or thing.  It has a spiritual aspect, encompassing an obligation to care for and nurture not only
physical well-being but also mauri.  Mana whenua aspire to exercise kaitiakitanga over their ngāhere,
whenua and moana.  However currently there are many barriers to this taking place. In order to strengthen kaitiakitanga there is a need to strengthen relationships between people and nature and
re-establish cultural practices.’

Children of course are fair game: the teachers resource for the sexuality education curriculum, Navigating the Journey (manipulative on multiple fronts), makes it clear that that class at least operates as a language learning class. 

‘You could encourage your students to use te reo Māori as they talk about their whānau. […] Use the following words in te reo Māori to describe feelings […] Encourage the use of te reo Māori vocabulary for feelings […] The students should be encouraged to pronounce the Māori names for body parts’ (Years 1-2);  ‘Students could practice te reo Māori phrases to describe how they are feeling (Years 3-4)

Discuss values and concepts for caring for others, such as wairua, whānau, hapū, iwi,
whanaungatanga. Encourage the students to consider and share examples of these values and
concepts from their own lives, for example, kaumātua caring for their whakapapa, hapū and iwi;
sisters and brothers caring for each other, older siblings caring for younger siblings, parents,
aunties, and uncles caring for children and so on.
[…] Harakeke has important historical and contemporary uses. Many of the whakataukī and waiata associated with harakeke, such as “Tiakina te pā harakeke” and Hutia te rito o te harakeke, express values that are important to Māori.
Talk with your school whānau group, kuia, or kaumātua about their kaupapa (protocols) around
gathering and using harakeke. Make links between taking care of the harakeke and taking care of
people in our classroom, school, and families. (Years 1-2)

The change of name to Aotearoa

Aotearoa was one of several Maori names for the North Island: there was no Maori name for the whole country, and when Maori chiefs signed the treaty of Waitangi, presented in Maori, the term used for New Zealand was Nu Tirani.  NZ continued to be referred to within Maori texts as Nu Tirani or Niu Tirani for another 100 years or so.   At some point Aotearoa became seen as the original Maori name for New Zealand and in recent years there has been a move to change the name to the very clunky Aotearoa-New Zealand.  Suddenly, however, without New Zealanders knowing quite how it happened, the government is using Aotearoa on its own as the formal name for New Zealand.  For example Jacinda Ardern:

‘Medsafe only grants consent for a vaccine’s use in Aotearoa once it’s satisfied […].’

TV1 news and weather reporters routinely use Aotearoa instead of New Zealand, despite many protests from the public.  The upcoming festival of French Films is termed French Film Festival Aotearoa.

There is no democratic mandate for this change.   There has been no referendum, and polls consistently show that the public reject a change even to Aotearoa-New Zealand.   There has been no public discussion of the consequences, for example how this will affect New Zealand’s standing in the world.

The media as an arm of the Labour/Green Government

In April 2020 the government announced a support package of $50 million for media organisations as part of its ‘covid response’.  It subsequently created a Public Journalism Fund, allocating a further $55 million to the media.  First of the listed criteria is a ‘Commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to Māori as a Te Tiriti partner’, explained as:

‘Applicants can show a clear and obvious commitment or intent for commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including a commitment to te reo Māori.’

The taxpayer is therefore funding the media to promote Labour/Green ideology, including Te Reoglish and a name change to Aotearoa.


‘It seems like a hostile takeover of our country is underway and most people feel powerless to do anything about it’. (Quoted by Karl Dufresne)

These ‘audacious’ measures have no mandate, in that no party, no candidate has incorporated them into a platform and discussed them during an election: for example there is no mention of WCC’s te reo policy in this pocket profile of Jill Day, its principle driver.  They are a source of frustration to the vast majority of New Zealanders, who have no interest in learning the language – and probably even less now.  There are multiple inconsistencies: different rules of usage apply; total respect is demanded for Maori but none for English.  They are perverse in that they obstruct rather than facilitate communication.

New Zealand English speakers have no authority over their own language, and are second-class citizens when it comes to Maori.  Any objective criticisms, any appeal to the norms of language, any comparison with foreign usage, are met with accusations of racism. 

Richard Treadgold, a member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, recently wrote to Cindy Kiro, chief executive of the Royal Society Te Apārangi:

Thank you for your latest newsletter Alert, Issue # 1146. dated today. An activist production if ever there was one.

I must complain that it is 90% inaccessible and functionally illegible because of the Maori language.

From Ahorangi Chief Executive through Royal Society Te Apārangi to hangarau learning, Matariki hunga nui (no English hints at all with this one) and Pito mata in action, large portions of your once-captivating newsletter are blank to me. Worse, it reeks of activism, with the Society blatantly forcing the Maori language down Kiwi throats. In years past, it never did, so something fundamental has changed, something ugly has taken its place. I feel inadequate, trampled on and excommunicated (emphasis added).

Where does this come from?

The divisive policies of the  government are consistent with measures applied elsewhere in the world to create disempowerment and racial disharmony.  Te Reofication is promoted in New Zealand by adherents of other policies stemming from the UN and the global elite: faux environmentalism (eg ‘climate change’); negation of property rights; the mass movement of people; critical race theory; child abusive education.  These are all policies of the New Zealand Labour and Green parties; government departments such as DOC in its Te Mana o te Taiao – Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and the Ministry of the Environment in He Kura Koiora i hokia promote Te Reoglish along with undemocratic powers to Maori elites, the erosion of property rights for ordinary people,  and climate change alarmism based on junk science.

We can conclude that there is an overriding principle at play.  It certainly isn’t the long-term welfare of the Maori people, or New Zealanders as a whole.


See also:  ‘Did voters know of Jacinda’s “audacious” Maori language plan?’ 

‘This is an appalling document, written from a completely subjective viewpoint, it is basically an instruction on how to use propaganda, the govt, the education system and our social institutions to force Maori language and culture upon the country. Of course it involves massive indoctrination of young NZers.’

‘Did 52% of New Zealanders vote for the virtual cultural conversion of our country? How could they when Jacinda Ardern never told them it was on her agenda.’


9 thoughts on “Te Reoglish: the Negation of New Zealand English

  1. Barbara, thanks for your scholarship, community spirit and labour. I am again shocked at the extent, effrontery and speed of this governmental punch in the face. I’m sure that many people will have much more to say in the near future. If today’s Howl of a Protest is anything to go by, people will be blocking many streets in protest at this thuggery on our democracy.

    1. Thanks Richard, BFD is going to reblog in three parts 😉 We need to stand up to the intellectual dishonesty, bullying and naked greed of self-interested, unrepresentative elites and their virtue-signaling, equally self-interested supporters. We have to expose the damage they are doing to race relations in this country.

      1. Well, that’s fabulous news from BFD and I absolutely agree with you. I believe the damage they’re doing to democratic principles and processes will limit our freedoms and will persist far beyond any influence on race relations, which can be mended by we the people, since it’s all about how we treat each other. We the people can also take back and mend the democratic process, for the government are small and we are large. Rise up my people, rise up!

  2. Thanks for your scholarship, community spirit and labour. Who would not be shocked at the extent, effrontery and speed of this governmental punch in the face? Our leader’s previous craven secrecy displays her awareness of what she’s doing and her fear of discovery before the last election. If today’s Howl of a Protest is anything to go by, many streets will soon be blocked in an uprising against the government’s brutish disregard of our hard-won democracy.

  3. I wondered who wrote that. I just sent terse letter to the Ministry of culture.

    Hegemony means making power seem unconnected to any individual and your ministry is just a cancer on society.

    1. Sorry, just seen. “Ministry of Culture …”. Where were they when it was decided that 5000 years of culture be removed from our National Library? Where, for that matter are professors of language and linguistics in the face of this assault on the English language?

  4. It is the uglification of English; it is the uglification of Maori – and it is an absolute impossibility. It cannot be done, simply because of the way homo sapiens use languages. Linguistic rules command that pronunciation of all words must alter subtly over generations. Verbally, people will automatically communicate in the most concise way – simply because that is the most effective way.

    The Maori language is a dead language – in as much as its extremely complicated grammar is now forgotten. Its original beauty and effectiveness was wholly contingent on its grammar. Only the dead Hebrew language has successfully been re-created – and for that to happen Israel as a country used only that language in all official communications, including (eventually) all newspapers. An effective grammar (undoubtedly quite different from original Hebrew) has slowly developed over the years – is probably still developing.

    Let us by all means try to somehow revive the Maori language if we can (and if we want to afford!!!) – but let us endeavour always to keep the two languages separate, exactly the way bi-lingual individuals always try to do it. English is a beautiful living language – the mother tongue of all New Zealanders, including all Maori. Te reo was an equally beautiful language – when alive. The Labour government is consciously (and inanely) setting out to uglify both. Shame on them – and shame on us on us as a country if we go along with them.

  5. The principal purpose of language is communication. For effective communication there must be an agreement on what words mean and the particular nuances of a word used in different contexts. Foreign words, e.g. Maori words and phrases, which are not generally known but are interspersed amongst English, in this case, tend to be ignored. So to me, with a smattering of Maori language (OK, te reo if you insist) the spurious use of Maori words during news reports is simply ignored. This in no way promotes the ability of the general populace nor the desire of the general populace to learn or understand these interjections. The understanding and use of the Maori language by the majority non-Maori population would best be encouraged by a carrot rather than demanded by a stick. The former increases knowledge and the pride that comes with understanding what were foreign words; the latter tends to cause resistance to being unnecessarily forced into comprehension of another language.

    It is the responsibility of the communicator to ensure that the message they are attempting to convey to others is received and understood by the intended recipients. Interspersing apparently random words in another language is not the way to achieve this and will, at best, result in misunderstandings and, at worst, result in a repugnance for the language which is being promoted and a resistance to learning that language.

    Remember that with language comes culture. It is not simply a matter of learning a series of words which are the equivalent of English words, but of understanding the cultural aspects which led to Maori place names, for example. This will bring real understanding rather that simple rote learning, which appears to be the current goal.

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