New Zealand's central bank defends Maori language use

  • World
  • Wednesday, 29 Nov 2023

FILE PHOTO: Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) Governor Adrian Orr is pictured during an interview at the bank in Wellington, New Zealand, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charlotte Greenfield/File Photo

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s central bank chief defended its use of the Maori language in official communications on Wednesday, as the country’s new centre-right government looks to roll back the use of the Indigenous language in the public sector.

The three parties in the new coalition government last week signed agreements that outline policies to roll back the use of Maori language and require all government agencies to primarily use English for their department names and communications.

Central bank governor Adrian Orr said at a media conference following the bank’s monetary policy meeting that it was proud of its Maori name "Te Putea Matua" and would continue to use it in addition to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ).

"Our embracing of Te Ao Maori (the Maori worldview including language) has been about how we work together as opposed to what our mandate is, and all our actions and activities are firmly anchored to our legal mandate," Orr said.

The push to reduce the use of Maori language is among a series of policies proposed by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's new government to roll back changes introduced by the previous centre-left Labour government.

Luxon said on Wednesday said the government would introduce legislation to reform the RBNZ's mandate and lift a ban on the sale of cigarettes to future generations within its first 100 days.

Over the past few years, the RBNZ has undergone an overhaul that puts the country's Maori heritage and language at the centre of its operations.

The makeover, driven by Orr, has resulted in some bold changes not only to its corporate branding but also its approach to policy and communication.

Policy documents are dotted with visual and linguistic references to Maori folklore and the use of common Maori phrases or words is not unheard of, at times perplexing foreign investors trading the New Zealand dollar.

The government has not released specific details on the policies and it is unclear whether they would directly impact the central bank.

The RBNZ is independent but is issued with a remit by the finance minister that specifies matters that the government wants the bank to focus on, such as financial stability and prudential regulation.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer. Editing by Sam Holmes)

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