Cook Islands Language Week this year has the theme "Be proud of your language and protect its future", as Cook Islands Māori is currently classified by UNESCO as a vulnerable language.
Of lawyers practising in New Zealand, 35 or 0.3% have advised that they have Cook Islands Māori ethnicity. There are a further 21 lawyers practising in the Cook Islands.
The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says use of the language is declining and its future is under threat.
“Cook Islands Māori is part of our Pacific language heritage and it’s vital that its future is protected. This is important for the whole of New Zealand. Language Week is about raising awareness and increasing usage," he says.
“New Zealand has an important part to play in protecting the future of the language because there are more people of Cook Islands descent in New Zealand than the Cook Islands."
Aupito William Sio says almost 62,000 people identified as Cook Islanders in the latest New Zealand census, while the Cook Islands population was just over 17,000.
"The last census also indicates that language use has dropped from 17.8% to 13.1% amongst those identifying as Cook Islanders and that’s a trend I want to see reversed," he says.
“This year’s theme Kia ngākau parau, kia rangarangatu to tatou reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani is spot on. Be proud of our Reo Māori Kūki Āirani and protect its future."
Of the lawyers with Cook Islands ethnicity, 46% are based in Auckland, with the others found in 10 other centres. Just under half - 46% - work in law firms with more than one lawyer, and 31% work as in-house lawyers.