'Kia ora' fuss called return to Dark Ages

By Yvonne Tahana

Maori woman demoted 29 years ago for using greeting is amazed by complaint

Naida Glavish. Photo / APN
Naida Glavish. Photo / APN

An iwi leader who made headlines for her cheery greeting of "kia ora" on the job is stunned there are still some people in New Zealand annoyed about its use.

Naida Glavish of Ngati Whatua was working at the Post Office as a telephone operator in 1984 when she was demoted for using the greeting.

The action against her ignited an uproar and is regarded as an important moment in the revitalisation of te reo.

Mrs Glavish was eventually reinstated to her original position, and the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Muldoon, weighed in, saying he didn't mind if she used the term.

Yesterday, she joined the debate after Queenstown clothing retailer Bonnie Rodwell complained about use of the Maori greeting in an email from a sales representative for Travel New Zealand magazine.

Ms Rodwell sent a return email saying it was "plain silly" to be greeted with "kia ora".

"Neither myself or [my office manager] speak Maori. Maybe more people would advertise with you if we were addressed with a little more respect," she wrote.

Publisher Gary Cody has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Ms Glavish said it was "astounding anyone in this day and age can object to kia ora, which is a beautiful way to acknowledge and greet another".

"One hardly has to be a fluent te reo speaker to get that kia ora is a respectful greeting.

"Not only is this woman's thinking from the Dark Ages, it is foolish for someone in the tourism industry to underestimate the value that Maori bring to putting New Zealand/Aotearoa on the world map.

"This woman would also do well to remember te reo Maori is an official language."

Ms Rodwell said: "I don't feel like it's a word that needs to be used and abused. I'll always greet a Maori with kia ora."

Some of the reaction from Herald readers was in support of Ms Rodwell. Brent Hepple, a product support manager for Komatsu New Zealand, said English was his only language.

"I'm a full-blooded Kiwi and as such I speak English, not Maori, and I do take offence to being greeted with a 'kia ora' just as I would if I was getting emails starting with bonjour."

Steve Schapel said: "I agree with her. If the respondent is Maori, I understand it, but I'm irritated by kia ora in email and phone greetings."

Ezma Devereaux supported using kia ora: "Yes, it's okay to begin your mail with kia ora. Which planet is this lady on?" Another reader wrote: "It's our national language and we should be proud of our heritage."

- NZ Herald

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