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Pacific Peoples and their language

How to correctly name the language and people who are in the main Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand.

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Languages of Pacific Peoples in New Zealand

Each of the main Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand has their own language. These languages are part of their identity and culture.

With more than 60% of the Pacific population born in New Zealand, it’s important that we recognise and support these languages in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pasifika New Zealand — Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Government content for and about Pacific Peoples needs to be:

  • respectful
  • culturally appropriate
  • accessible
  • inclusive of everyone.

Inclusive language — making content accessible and inclusive

Accessible language — making language and text accessible

Name the Pacific languages

Correctly naming the Pacific languages is a way we can be respectful and inclusive.

Table 1: Main Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand and their language

Pacific ethnic group Pacific language English name
Cook Islands Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani Cook Islands Māori
Fiji Vosa Vakaviti Fijian
Kiribati Te taetae ni Kiribati Kiribati
Niue Vagahau Niue Niuean
Rotuma Fäeag Rotuḁm Rotuman
Samoa Gagana Samoa Samoan
Tokelau Te Gagana Tokelau Tokelau
Tonga Lea Faka-Tonga Tongan
Tuvalu Te Gana Tuvalu Tuvalu

Avoid using the English name or write them both — always write the Pacific name first. For example:

  • Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani (Cook Islands Māori)
  • Vosa Vakaviti (Fijian).

Refer to individuals and groups

When you refer to someone from one of the main Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand, use the following terms:

  • Cook Islander
  • Fijian
  • Kiribati or person of Kiribati descent
  • Niuean
  • Rotuman
  • Samoan
  • Tongan
  • Tuvalu people or people from Tuvalu — do not use Tuvaluan
  • Tokelau people or people from Tokelau — do not use Tokelauan.

For groups, Pacific Peoples is the appropriate term. Avoid using Pacific Islanders or Pasifika (including all spellings — Pasifika, Pasefika and Pacifika).

Pacific language codes

These are the language codes for the main Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand. 

  • Cook Islands — rar
  • Fiji — fj
  • Kiribati — gil
  • Niue — niu
  • Rotuma — rtm
  • Samoa — sm
  • Tokelau — tk
  • Tonga — to
  • Tuvalu — tvl


Learn more about Pacific Peoples, their language, perspective and culture from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

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