James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Mac and Ron put accent on spelling

Couple on mission to turn ‘Whytackery’ back into Waitakere.

Te Ngaronoa Mahanga (left) and Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi will hand out sausages to people who answer questions about the macron. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Te Ngaronoa Mahanga (left) and Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi will hand out sausages to people who answer questions about the macron. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Mac and Ron are on a linguistic and historic mission to right Maori spelling and pronunciation howlers in West Auckland.

"Mac" (Te Ngaronoa Mahanga) and "Ron" (Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi) are pushing to see the correct spelling and pronunciation of Waitakere (why-tah-care-reh), which a lot of locals refer to as "Whytackery".

They're starting off with students at Unitec campuses at Mt Albert, Henderson and Albany with quizzes about where macrons should go in certain Maori words.

They're hoping the initiative could get bigger with businesses and West Auckland locals getting on board with the correct pronunciation and spelling of Waitakere.

"We are just trying to raise the awareness of using macrons in te reo Maori, particularly with place names ... it might seem like a small thing but without macrons the words actually carry completely different meanings," said Mr Mahanga, a 26-year-old communications student.

Unitec's Pae Arahi Hare Paniora said there were a number of explanations for the origin of the name Waitakere.

"One of the most common is cascading waters with 'wai' meaning water and takere - without a macron - meaning cascading," he said.

"Another is that the name was corrupted from Waitekauri, an area and stream where kauri were prolific."

Mr Paniora believed the most likely explanation was that it related to a battle that took place between tribes Te Kawerau a Maki and Ngati Whatua where the rangatira Takere Kawerau was beheaded at the mouth of the Waitakere River. "Whatever explanation, Waitakere is pronounced with a long 'a' by iwi of the region - which should correctly be denoted with a macron," Mr Paniora said.

Auckland Council's manager of the Maori strategy and relations department, Johnnie Freeland, said using macrons on placenames and words relevant to the Tamaki Makaurau area had been part of its Maori language framework since the council came into being in 2010.

Mr Freeland said the changes meant macrons were now applied to the likes of Otara, Otahuhu, Waitemata and Puketapapa in council literature and signs.

"One of the key things is around celebrating Auckland's Maori identity as its point of difference in the world and we will have signage reflecting te reo Maori in terms of how that's woven into our urban designs.

"It's an opportunity to educate Aucklanders and visitors who come here about those cultural layers and reflecting to Maori that they live in a Maori city - it just helps create that sense of place and belonging."

Mr Freeland expected all council signs throughout Auckland to be using macrons within 10 years.

- NZ Herald

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