In 1993, Northcote Library established a local competition as part of Māori Language Week. The success of the competition encouraged the N Strategy Bicultural Actions Group to make this a national event. At the time, the Bicultural Special Interest Group of the New Zealand Library & Information Association continued to run the competition.
In 1997, National Library of New Zealand were approached to be involved in the New Zealand Māori Language Competition. The objectives of the competition were to:
- support Māori language
- to promote Māori language to the communities
- to generate Māori language material to consider pulishing an anthology
Te Rōpū Whakahau coordinated and managed the Māori Language Competition with the following four taonga as awards:
- Ngā Kete e Toru – award donated by LIANZA Wellington Region – Fiction
- Taurapa/Tauihu – award donated by Palmerston North City Libraries – Picture Book
- Hoani Whatahoro – he tohu whakamaumaharatanga tēnei ki a Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury – Non-fiction
- Te Tohu Tai Tamariki Tuatahi – award donated by Buddy Tainui of Ngāi Tahu and Aoraki LIANZA – This award changes annually in order to recognise excellence that would not otherwise be recognised in the other award categories
These competitions were discontinued as other National Competitions gained strength and popularity. In 2006, it was agreed by Ngā Kaiwhakahau that these taonga would be repurposed and awarded on an annual basis to recognise literary achievement as part of Te Kura Pounamu. 2015 was the last year for these taonga to be part of the awards.