It came with the Polynesian immigrants about a thousand years ago. Nineteenth-century missionaries were among the first "foreigners" to study it. After a century of decline as Europeans began to dominate the population, the language began a slow revival in the late 20th century, helped by its gaining of official status.
Regional variations number half a dozen, but most of the differences are in vocabulary and small variations in pronunciation (some - notably in the Ngai Tahu variant - resulting in spelling variations).
Very few New Zealanders understand no Māori words. New Zealand English used in newspapers other media is full of such words, not only for placenames and unique plants and animals such as kauri and kiwi, but for other concepts as well.
Estimates of how many speakers of Māori there are have been made. The 2006 census asked people to list languages in which they could converse about a number of things. That resulting number will be of interest to many when it is published. It will probably be between 100,000 and 200,000, perhaps (for some people) disappointingly small in comparison to the number of people who have Māori ancestry and regard themselves as Māori (about 700,000).
Use of language in government publicationsEdit
A small but growing number of Acts of Parliament use Māori language, and nearly every government department and local authority has a Māori name and uses the language in its information leaflets and elsewhere.
Use of language on websitesEdit
Tribal websites, the sites one might expect to be first to use the language, still vary considerably in their use of it.
Government websites make much use of it, some having a complete "mirror" in each language with ability to click back and forth from any page to its equivalent in the other language.
The internet encyclopaedia "Wikipedia" has a small Māori-language version, and this New Zealand Wikia has no objection to having articles with Māori pagenames and content.