On 29 April 1986, the Waitangi Tribunal handed down its findings relating to te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) which included several recommendations to the Government covering the use of Māori in Courts of Law, government departments, local authorities, in education and in broadcasting.
Although try outs had been made over a number of years for the government to recognize the status of the Māori language in New Zealand, it was the tribunal’s intervention that finally promoted the drafting of the Māori language Bill, which was later renamed as the Māori Language Act 1987. The Act did not implement all of the tribunal’s numerous recommendations. Nevertheless it does contain three important suggestions:
•It declares Māori to be an official language of New Zealand.
•It confers upon a wide range of participants the right to speak Māori in certain legal procedures.
•It establishes the Māori Language Commission (te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori) and defines its functions and powers.
Indeed, giving an official status to a language appears to do little more than conferring it a symbolic value. But, when a Māori speaker chooses to exercise this right, the responsibility is on the presiding officer in order to make sure that a competent interpreter is going to translate