Pacific languages need to be better valued in NZ - minister

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples says Pacific languages need to be better recognised and valued.

Aupito William Sio said 2019 is a momentous year as the UN has declared it the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The UN aims to raise awareness about the consequences of losing indigenous tongues.

Aupito said indigenous languages are important for a people's development, reconciliation, good governance, peace building and general well-being.

He said it's important to protect and nurture Pacific languages for the well-being of New Zealand's Pacific peoples and the broader community.

The minister said the languages are a national asset which add a unique vibrancy to New Zealand life.

The minister cites New Zealand's Pacific Language Weeks as a tool to raise awareness and promote the use of Pacific languages which are seen as increasingly vulnerable.

New Zealand's 2013 census confirmed that language use had declined across all Pacific communities.

The languages of New Zealand's realm countries: Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands are classified by UNESCO as vulnerable or endangered.

This year the Ministry of Pacific People's has released the dates of the language weeks early so as to, "encourage more groups and organisations to get involved in the promotion of the Pacific Language Weeks," Aupito said.

The Pacific Language Weeks started in 2007 with Samoan and now celebrate, promote and raise awareness of seven Pacific Languages.

This year's line-up begins with Samoa Language Week in May and ends with Tokelau Language Week in October. All events now run for at least a month and some extend activities throughout the year.