Cook Islands Language Week 2018 launches amidst a decline in use in NZ

 “Be proud of your language and protect its future” is the theme of this year’s Cook Islands Language Week. Speaking at the launch, Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio says the theme is very pertinent for Cook Islanders because use of the language is declining and its future is under threat.


The second of seven Pacific language weeks in 2018 supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), was launched at Christchurch’s Te Hapua Halswell Centre on July 28.


Cook Islands Māori is currently classified by UNESCO as a vulnerable language, which means while most children speak the language, usage is restricted largely to specific locations such as church, or in the home.


“Cook Islands Māori is part of our Pacific language heritage and it’s vital that its future is protected,” says Minister Sio.


“This is important for the whole of New Zealand.


“Language Week is about raising awareness and increasing usage.”


New Zealand has an important part to play in protecting the future of the language because there are more people of Cook Islands descent in New Zealand than the Cook Islands, he adds.


“Almost 62,000 people identified as Cook Islanders in the latest New Zealand census while the Cook Islands population was just over 17,000.


“The last census also indicates that language use has dropped from 17.8 percent to 13.1 percent amongst those identifying as Cook Islanders and that’s a trend I want to see reversed.”


Minister Sio says this year’s theme Kia ngākau parau, kia rangarangatu to tatou reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani is spot on – we need to be proud of our Reo Māori Kūki Āirani and protect its future.


Language is inextricably linked to one’s identity and sense of belonging and that is why continued use is so important.


“We want people to be confident and proud of their language and cultural heritage and to protect its future.


“It is part of knowing ourselves and ensuring this rich heritage can be passed on to the next generation and the continuum of our languages and culture is kept alive.”


The Ministry has worked with the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand (CIDANZ) and the Christchurch Cook Islands community to make this year’s Cook Islands Language Week possible.


“I am deeply appreciative of the hard work that CIDANZ and the community has done in organising the Cook Islands Language Week - we couldn’t have done it without them,” Minister Sio says. 


See how you can celebrate or learn more about the Cook Islands language around New Zealand here.