Maori language backlash

By Ruth Keber

Pat Spellman from Moana Radio. Photo/Ruth Keber
Pat Spellman from Moana Radio. Photo/Ruth Keber

A Western Bay radio host says he has been the target of abuse after he announced a plan to make Tauranga the first te reo Maori friendly city.

The Bay of Plenty Times reported Pat Spellman planned to make signs in public places in both English and te reo Maori, and was encouraging local businesses to say say "kia ora".

Mr Spellman said he had received verbal abuse since the announcement.

"As I walked into work yesterday a vehicle pulled up beside me and a middle-aged lady wound her window down, and yelled at me 'hope you're paying for your language to be plastered all over the place.' I replied with 'kia ora, love' and smiled, to which she called me a 'b******' and drove off.

"Later that afternoon I was sitting at a cafe on Wharf St when a stranger pulled up a chair and began to explain to me why, fundamentally speaking, this would set our city back a century.

"When I attempted to rebut his korero he stood and told me I've had my public parade and better find my own money to fund it."

He had also been the subject of online comments and Facebook discussion, both good and bad. "I'm surprised at the amount of negative feedback but the support has been amazing too."

Mr Spellman said businesses were embracing the idea and the abuse would not stall progression for Tauranga Te Reo - Our Te Reo Friendly City.

Mount Maunganui and Papamoa councillor Clayton Mitchell said he had received negative emails after voicing support for the project: "Some of the comments are bordering on racist and bigotry."

Tauranga resident Mary Brooks who wrote to the Bay of Plenty Times opposing the plan said residents would like the chance to discuss Maori signage before a decision was made. It was terrible Mr Spellman was being abused but called for "proper debate", she said.

"The city council are becoming like little dogs that jump whenever it's something to do with iwi and it is becoming ridiculous.

"There must be public debate on this sort of thing," she said.

Cr Gail McIntosh said she would not be backing the project labelling it a "waste of money".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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