Otaki could be first bilingual town in New Zealand

Mayor of Kapiti, K Gurunathan, was all for the idea. Photo / NZ Herald
Mayor of Kapiti, K Gurunathan, was all for the idea. Photo / NZ Herald

In the mid-1970s there were no Maori under 30 in Otaki who could speak te reo Maori fluently.

Times have changed in the Kapiti Coast town, which could be the first in New Zealand to be given bilingual status.

A partnership between the Maori Party and Te Puni Kokiri has resulted in a push to celebrate the bilingual status, Fairfax Media reported.

The town could have street signs in both English and te reo, and businesses could have signs and print invoices in both languages.

The 2013 census said 16.8 per cent of Otaki residents spoke te reo, compared with 3.7 per cent of all New Zealanders.

The town has tertiary institution Te Wananga O Raukawa, as well as two Maori immersion schools and two bilingual units in mainstream schools.

Kapiti Coast District Council has said the idea has potential.

Mayor K Gurunathan said it was a good opportunity to stand out.

"From where we sit, I think it's a good opportunity. One only has to think of the expressway coming through ... we need points of difference. We need to be unique," he told Fairfax.

​Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said discussions had been held with Otaki and Rotorua about becoming bilingual, and Wairoa also had a similar goal.

"There is potential to partner with Government, local government, community and Maori to trial a bilingual approach.

"We'd love for more communities and towns to become bilingual and believe Otaki, and perhaps Rotorua and Wairoa, could become the catalyst for others to follow suit."

- NZ Herald

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