New Zealand’s government say Māori (Te Reo) is another official language beside English. Can people use Māori instead of English for the citizenship language test?

From the Wikipedia article on Māori:

A 1994 ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom held the New Zealand Government responsible under the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) for the preservation of the language.

  • 4
    If such a qualification exists, it would be interesting whether it was ever actually used. I've seen estimates that monolingual Maori speakers number under 10,000. Most of the bilingual and mutlilingual speakers probably would speak English. New Zealand had birthright citizenship until 2006, so any monolingual Maori speaker born in New Zealand before then would have been a citizen. Since then, it's enough to have one New Zealander parent, so any monolingual speaker born to someone born in New Zealand before 2006 would be a citizen.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 6:43
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    I guess for someone to use this qualification, they'd have to have been born into a monolingual Maori speaking family outside of New Zealand. But since Maori is almost entirely geographically restricted to New Zealand, the number of monolingual Maori families abroad would likely be low.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 6:44
  • Also I forget about visa point system, use Māori skill replace English there for equal points. Maybe that is a new question? Idea is any people can either language then want learn for citizenship because both equal official languages by New Zealand law.
    – Châu
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 13:32
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    @Obie2.0 "they'd have to have been born into a monolingual Maori" Or it could be neither of their parents speak English. Seems similarly unlikely, but it is possible to be bilingual in languages other than English. Or I suppose they could be a native speaker of a language closely related to Te Reo Maori and their non-native Maori could be better than their non-native Maori. Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 18:24
  • @AzorAhai - Well, I thought about that possibility, but it struck me as much less likely, since I would think that the largest number of Maori expatriates live in Australia, which primarily speaks English.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 19:02

2 Answers 2


There is no language "test" for New Zealand citizenship. There is a requirement to

be able to hold a basic conversation in English

which is assessed at the interview (by holding that basic conversation in English), or by demonstrating by documentation that you can. The statutory requirement is

that the applicant has sufficient knowledge of the English language

No part of the law refers to knowledge of the Māori language. The English requirement is fairly relaxed - no reading and writing is required, just speaking to someone in a functional way. Someone who has been living and working in New Zealand for the necessary five years before applying has probably met that requirement by default.

There is the possibility of making an exceptional-circumstances application that will be considered by the Minister of Internal Affairs. It's not out of the question that a fluent Māori language speaker might be able to make that case in any plausible scenario where it came up, but it would be an exceptional situation.

For visas, again, there are explicit English language requirements for many categories. You might be able to make a similar argument, though it could be an even harder case since the visa rules are primarily focused on economic features. If you had, for example, a skilled job lined up that required fluent knowledge of Te Reo Māori and your native language, or some similar circumstances, you would have a good case.

No part of Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori Māori Language Act 2016 or its predecessor confer a way to substitute that requirement as of right. You could support your argument, in these unusual circumstances, with the principles set out in the Act about advancing, promoting, and protecting the language, but they primarily guide state agencies in deciding their practices and priorities. Because the English-language requirement from the Citizenship Act was left intact, the agency doesn't have the ability to change its policy to that extent, while Immigration might (and hasn't, and successive Ministers and governments have not directed them to).

Pragmatically, the English-language requirement of visas is because it is generally necessary to function productively in New Zealand society at this point, and because for many categories the intent is to fill economic gaps in existing English-language workspaces. It's possible that in future that might change. At the moment it would be creating false hope to suggest otherwise, and for the truly exceptional cases, the exceptional options are available.


Technically, yes. It is one of three official languages in New Zealand (English and NZ Sign language being the other two). In practice, this probably doesn't happen all that often as the language doesn't have many foreign speakers and most Islands where there are similar languages tend to speak English or other European Languages. That said, New Zealand has recognized it since 1987 and all government departments have a translated name, Parliment has a translator on hand in case a member wishes to speak in Maori in law and the Aotearoa Televison Network (ATN) is a public TV station primarily in Maori Language. Maori is also taught in New Zealand Schools (As depicted in the New Zealand television series "7 Periods with Mr. Gormsby, which depicted life around the Relief (Substitute) Teacher, Mr. Gormsby as he teaches the worst class in the worst School in the country. One of the running gags is that the Maori Studies Teacher is actually a Native Tahitian, doesn't speak a lick of the language, and is phoning in his lessons. The entire series is on Youtube, but fair warning, a lot of the humor derives from Gomsby's complete dismissal of Politically Correct language and his refusal to use sensitivity when brutal honesty will suffice.).

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