The Herald editorial:
Launching Māori Language Week, the Prime Minister visited Wellington High School yesterday where a student asked whether she though this country would ever have a Prime Minister who could speak Māori. She said she wished she could have been the first.
How short people’s memories are. The last Prime Minister could speak Māori. Stuff reported in 2017:
Prime Minister Bill English’s three minute korero in Te Reo on Monday was nothing short of impressive and it took only a few conversations with locals at the Pa who witnessed it to understand just how significant the gesture was.
As one young man pointed out, it means a lot when someone as busy as the Prime Minister can come to our home and talk to our people in our language.
English wasn’t fluent but said he could follow around half the conversations in Maori.
The Listener also reported:
English displayed a surprisingly deep rapport with Maori when, on Waitangi Day, he went to Auckland’s Orakei Marae and delivered a fluent speech in Maori, in which he spoke directly to Joe Hawke, who in 1976-78 led a 506-day occupation of Bastion Point. The occupation came to symbolise the deep grievances of Maori over land issues.
English has been quietly taking informal lessons in Maori for years. His guide has been his long-time adviser Amohaere Houkamau, who has encouraged English to travel more often to marae and to engage with iwi. “It gave him more exposure to that cultural setting and he developed greater confidence,” Houkamau says of English, whom she now ranks as the most fluent Maori speaker of all of non-Maori in Parliament.
The Herald has a short memory.