Trying to make English an official language

Nothing is set by being submitted as a Member’s Bill – first it has to be drawn, and the odds are against that. Then if it is drawn it needs to pass through Parliament.

Clayton Mitchell wants to make English an official language of NZ – this might just have supplanted Nuk Korako’s “lost luggage” bill as the biggest waste of Parliament’s time…

Is this trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?

English has long been the de facto official language.

Māori  was also made an official language, in 1987.

And New Zealand Sign Language became a third official language in  New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006.

From the Māori Language Act 1987:

Recognition of Māori language

3 Māori language to be an official language of New Zealand

The Māori language is hereby declared to be an official language of New Zealand.

4 Right to speak Māori in legal proceedings

(1) In any legal proceedings, the following persons may speak Māori, whether or not they are able to understand or communicate in English or any other language…

(4) Where, in any proceedings, any question arises as to the accuracy of any interpreting from Māori into English or from English into Māori, the question shall be determined by the presiding officer in such manner as the presiding officer thinks fit.

It’s quite clear from this that it was intended that Māori and English were to be co-official languages.


Leave a comment


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  15th February 2018

    As English is de facto the lingua franca of the world, it might be an idea to make this an actual law, now I come to think of it. I can’t see it changing, but even so…

    There’s always Latin, but I think that the people who invented Latin grammar had far too much time on their hands.

    • 2Tru

       /  15th February 2018

      I agree totally. It is possible that at some time in the future that Te Reo will attempt to overthrow English as the preferred language of this country. That would be a bad move. Making English a formal language would help avoid that mistake.

      • Gezza

         /  15th February 2018

        It probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea to provide in the 1987 Act that English & Maori were both official languages & maybe even the English is (now) the primary one, but given that English IS the main language of law, commerce, education & communication (Maori-speakers are overwhelmingly bilingual) it obviously didn’t seem necessary. Before we reach the stage where we’ve got another group clamouring for Mandarin & Hindi to be given official or even primary status, maybe this should be tidied up?

  2. BobJ

     /  15th February 2018

    Am guessing ‘filler’ bills like this are related to the ballot, the more members bills in the ballot the less likely one the government would prefer not to have to deal with gets drawn, also if drawn it would chew up time on members day, again delaying other more problematic bills like the Kumadex Sanctuary or the Marijuana one.


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