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Chris Luxon commits to dual-language government departments

Christopher Luxon speaks at the National Party conference.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon at the National Party conference. (File photo) Photo: Giles Dexter

National Party leader Christopher Luxon has committed to having dual-language names for every government department, with English first.

He says a video posted online by a union organiser of a public meeting he held in Nelson yesterday, in which he was questioned about the use of te reo Māori, was a "Labour hit job".

One audience member had said "we all understand school, but I've seen signs changed to 'kura', we just don't understand the words", a second asked what he was going to do about the matter: "we're talking to you, we want some action".

Luxon then responded, to applause: "Yeah, well, mate, the first thing you've got to do, buddy, is you've got to vote October the 14th to get me in there to government".

Asked on Morning Report about the clip, Luxon got defensive.

"It's a Labour hit job, I mean again everyone can see it. We see it each and every week, Labour wants to make a personal attack on me. It's their election strategy, we understand that.

"If you show the full transcript and you see what we were talking about, I was saying how I felt it was important to actually have dual language in New Zealand, so that if you didn't understand te reo you could navigate by English, if you did understand te reo you could use te reo - but having government department names in both is really important."

National MP Chris Bishop posted another clip from the meeting showing a longer response from Luxon.

Luxon had told the crowd someone at a different meeting had complained about not knowing what the names of the agencies were, and he was "of the view that we should rename our government departments in English so people can navigate their government".

"But I'm also of the view that actually we should have te reo on there and we should have dual language on it," he said. "But you have to have a choice, right?"

He repeated that stance on Morning Report when it was put to him many departments were in both languages.

"In many cases it's just referenced only in its te reo language, in some cases only referenced in English. We should have both," he said.

"When I lived and worked in Canada for three years, when I lived and worked in America for six years, English-Spanish, English-French, a very common approach."

He wanted the departments to have the English name listed first.

"I think that's the language that most New Zealanders speak and we want to make sure they understand that, but we should also have te reo there as well because it's a really important language and we want more New Zealanders speaking it."

He said while more people should be encouraged to learn the language, "there is also a large proportion of New Zealanders that have not been raised with te reo, and have no association or understanding of it".

"The bigger issue, frankly, rather than the language, is actually people being able to get the public services they need, and understanding their government and being able to navigate it."