New Zealand has a reputation of a ‘give it a go’ attitude. This has led to some great achievements over the years but can also bite us on the backside.
Back in the 1960s when the Wellington to the Hutt Valley and Ngauranga Gorge motorway was being built it was said that if a bridge built in England collapsed when put to use and bridges of the same design and specification built in US and Germany also collapsed New Zealand would still go ahead and try the same bridge.
The same attitude is alive and well today. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all spent billions trying to breathe life back into their ancient languages.
In Wales speaking Welsh was often a requirement for senior managers for a while. In Ireland Irish Gaelic was compulsory in schools.
However, in all three countries the language spoken in the restaurants, pubs and market places is English. In fact, nowhere in the world where English has become the dominant language has a local language been brought back from the dead.
Despite these examples, New Zealand still spends between $300 million to $400m every year trying to promote the Ma¯ ori language to mainstream. Over the years many billions of dollars have been spent on this futile exercise with the result that less than 1 per cent of our population are truly fluent in Ma¯ ori. The kicker is that all those billions have not been spent for the benefit of New Zealand or even for the benefit of those who identify as Ma¯ ori. The whole exercise has been for the benefit of politicians. REG FOWLES WAIKANAE