An Open Letter to Aotearoa

Tēnā koutou kātoa 

Right now New Zealanders are showing the rest of the world what kind of people we are.   

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata.
He tangata. He tangata. 
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people. It is people. It is people. 

We were anxious not to put pressure on people this Māori Language Week because there are so many things we are being asked to do. It isn’t always easy to live in lockdown, separated from the people and places who make us who we are.  

However, we also know that in our hardest times, New Zealanders turn to our first language for comfort and solidarity. For manaakitanga and kotahitanga. When our people were murdered in their place of worship, we sent aroha to their families. When our young soldiers were killed thousands of miles from home, we welcomed them home with an unforgettable haka. 

And right now when we see that flashing sign on the side of the deserted road that says Kia kaha, it’s telling us: Don’t give up. Go hard.  


We already know that 8 in 10 New Zealanders see te reo as part of our national identity, particularly our young people. Last Māori Language Week more than 1 million of us stopped what we were doing and celebrated te reo together. We did it because te reo is still endangered, it could still disappear if we don’t continue to fight for it. Even last year we were living in a COVID world so we designed our virtual Māori Language Moment with our people’s safety in mind. 

This Māori Language Week we want you to join us as we aim to set a the record for the biggest single, simultaneous celebration of an endangered language on earth. Joining in is as easy as tuning into our Youtube channel or as hard as delivering a whaikōrero: it’s up to you. All we ask is that you  register so your participation can be counted. 

New Zealanders are pretty good at standing together for things we believe in. We might not be able to come together in person. But we can still come together in spirit. And break a world record or two while we’re at it! 

Join us at 12pm on Tuesday 14th September 2021. 

Register now at

Kia kaha te reo Māori. May our language be strong. 
Kia kaha Aotearoa. May our country be strong. 
Kia ora Aotearoa. May our people be well. 

Rawinia Higgins

Professor Rawinia Higgins 
Māori Language Commissioner 
Elected member, UN Global Taskforce for a Decade for Indigenous Languages 2022-2032