Radio boss backing te reo exposure

By Ruth Keber

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Charlie Tawhiao, general manager of Moana Radio, said whole families should take up using te reo Maori to ensure its survival in the Bay of Plenty.
Charlie Tawhiao, general manager of Moana Radio, said whole families should take up using te reo Maori to ensure its survival in the Bay of Plenty.

MOANA Radio is committed to ensuring te reo Maori prospers in the Bay.

The station, located in Tauranga's downtown, incorporates the Maori language into its diverse range of radio programmes.

Moana Radio general manager Charlie Tawhiao said the station would help keep the Maori language alive in the Bay.

"Maori culture only exists within Maori language, so therefore to protect Maori culture we need the language to survive for the culture to survive."

Mr Tawhiao said one of the goals behind the radio station was to encourage people to speak te reo and encourage them to use it everyday.

Mr Tawhiao said projects such as Te Reo Tauranga highlighted how the language had grown in the Tauranga community over the past few years.

Te Reo Tauranga was the brain child of Moana Radio host Pat Spellman who wanted to see different Maori plaques placed around the city and more stores greeting customers with "kia ora" instead of hello.

"Yes, there were was some knockers but there was a huge amount of support for it which suggests to me the first step has been taken towards Maori language, which is removing the stigma attached to te reo which has been there for a long time.

"Especially for our own people, I'm hearing more Maori when I'm walking in the streets in Tauranga and I hear people talking Maori to each other you wouldn't have heard that a few years ago," he said.

However, Mr Tawhiao, who is the chair of Maori Media Network, said the language was still in a critical state.

"English is such a dominant and easy to use language so it is used in preference to te reo Maori. Speakers of te reo Maori also can't be sure what they say will be understood by English speakers, so they will revert to English so the point they are making is heard."

Maori language was important because it was unique to New Zealand, he said.

" ... For that reason it has to be preserved."

Te reo Maori was more difficult to be learnt today because it lacked exposure.

"It's not the language prevalent on the TV, on the radio and in the streets (and) that's where the difficultly comes from. But if you think about the names of most of our towns, they are Maori.

"At a very simplistic view whenever anybody says Tauranga, they are using a Maori word and speaking Maori, so everybody in New Zealand does speak some Maori."

Te reo Maori was heading in the right direction for Tauranga Moana but not fast enough, he said.

"It could be sped up by whole families taking it on rather than individuals. A language grows faster when it is growing in a home. If I am the only one learning te reo Maori in my family and I die, then my efforts die when I do."

However, he noted the "astonishing numbers of Pakeha" were learning the language.

He predicted te reo Maori would be spoken more in the future. "Not just because it reinforces the place of Maori in Tauranga, it is not possible to speak Maori without changing your view on the world because in each language is embedded a culture of people, when you can speak te reo will have another way of looking at the world too."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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