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Māori Language Research

Kia ora, this page of the Kōrero Māori website has information about important research and statistics about the Māori language. We have divided the content into three sections:

Pātaka Iringa Kōrero

Pātaka Iringa Kōrero is a Māori language research database compiled by Te Puni Kōkiri. It contains information about who is doing research in the fields of linguistics and applied linguistics in Aotearoa. Subjects include: phonology, phonetics, language acquisition, and literacy.

Language Statistics

New Zealand is a culturally diverse nation representing a large number of different language groups. The table below shows the languages spoken in New Zealand with the greatest numbers of speakers; the number of Māori who speak them, and the number of speakers overall.

Languages Spoken in New Zealand

Language No. of Māori who speak these languages   No. of Speakers Overall
English 494,682 3,425,304
Māori 130,485 160,527
NZ Sign Language 6,549 27,285
Samoan 4,077 81,036
French 2,286 49,722
Japanese 1,869 19,938
Spanish 1,110 14,676
German 1,044 33,981

Source: 2001 Census: National Summary, Statistics New Zealand. Note: The table above includes only the 8 most commonly used languages - there are many other languages spoken in NZ.

Survey on the Health of the Māori Language 2001

Read on for the latest information on Māori language statistics.

The data contained in the 2001 Health of the Māori Language Survey can be used by parents, communities, iwi, researchers, schools, government departments and others, to help design and support Māori language initiatives at all levels.

April 2002
The final survey report and tables have now been confirmed and augmented by additional information from the Census 2001. This report and tables replace the provisional report and tables released in December 2001. You can also see highlights from the March Census Snapshot and our press release.

December 2001
The provisional survey report and tables were released 7 December 2020 and have been available for use until the updated information was released in April 2002. You can also see highlights from this survey and our press release.

Highlights from The Health of the Māori Language Survey 2001

  • Speaking proficiency generally increased with age, although there is some indication that the proportion with high proficiency skills is increasing in the youngest surveyed age group of 15-24 years (5,400 people aged 15-24 years had high proficiency skills compared with 2,800 people aged 25-34 years).
  • Those with high speaking proficiency skills were more likely than other people to have been exposed to the Māori language as a child.
  • Eleven percent of Māori adults (34,900 people) said they had been a student in a Māori language course in the 12 months preceding the survey.
  • 55% of Māori adults listened to Māori radio, and 85% watched Māori language programming.
  • One-fifth of Māori adults had helped or worked for one or more Māori revitalisation initiatives in the 12 months preceding the survey. These people were generally unpaid workers.

(source Statistics New Zealand , Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori , 2001)

Māori Language in the Regions

Data collated from the Māori Language Survey 2001 shows that the highest concentrations of Māori language speakers live in Te Tai-rāwhiti - East Coast (34%), Waiariki - Bay of Plenty (31%) and Te Taitokerau - Northland (30%) regions. The national average of Māori language speakers in New Zealand is around 25% of the total Māori population, which numbered 526,281 in 2001. The sections below show the populations of Māori language speakers across eight regions.

Tāmaki-makau-rau - Auckland

127,600 people living in Tāmaki-makau-rau identified as Māori, with 26,400 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Tāmaki-makau-rau is 21%. This rate is below the national rate of 25%.

Te Upoko o te Ika me Te Tau Ihu - Wellington

58,200 people living in Te Upoko o te Ika me Te Tau Ihu identified as Māori, with 13,700 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Te Upoko o te Ika me Te Tau Ihu is 24%. This rate is below the national rate of 25%.

Waiariki - Bay of Plenty

63,700 people living in Waiariki identified as Māori, with 20,000 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Waiariki is 31%. This rate is above the national rate of 25%.

Te Tai-rāwhiti - East Coast

51,500 people living in Te Tai-rāwhiti identified as Māori, with 15,200 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Te Tai-rāwhiti is 30%. This rate is above the national rate of 25%.

Tainui - Waikato

72,800 people living in Tainui identified as Māori, with 19,700 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Tainui is 27%. This rate is above the national rate of 25%.

Te Taihauāuru - Taranaki

53,800 people living in Te Taihauāuru identified as Māori, with 13,200 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Te Taihauāuru is 25%. This rate is the same as the national rate.

Te Taitokerau - Northland

40,700 people living in Te Taitokerau identified as Māori, with 12,000 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Te Taitokerau is 30%. This rate is above the national rate of 25%.

Te Waipounamu - South Island

57,500 people living in Te Waipounamu identified as Māori, with 10,200 of these people saying they were able to converse in Māori 'about a lot of everyday things'. This means the Māori language rate for Māori in Te Waipounamu is 18%. This rate is below the national rate of 25%.

For a more detailed analysis on the health of the Māori language in each of the above regions, go to: http://www.tpk.govt.nz/maori/language/default.asp