Sonya is the head of news at the Bay of Plenty Times.

Branch leads way in bilingual banking

Rotorua's bilingual Westpac branch is the natural home for a taonga given to the bank for its win at the Maori Language Awards.

A powhiri was held on Thursday to welcome the taonga to its new resting place at the Rotorua Westpac, attended by several bank officials and Ngati Whakaue representatives.

It was awarded to the bank for winning the private sector category at the Maori Language Awards, held in Tauranga last month; the first time a bank has won since the awards were created in 2004.

Westpac regional manager Steve Atkinson said the win recognised the work the bank had done to promote the use of te reo within the business.

"It's a huge acknowledgement from our perspective, for everything we've been doing with the bilingual branch and across the country and getting our staff to embrace the Maori language as a second language.

"It's great for the staff who have been heavily involved in doing the bilingual signage and making sure it has that Maori/iwi involvement."

As the first bilingual branch in the country, Mr Atkinson said Rotorua was the natural home for the taonga.

"It's the first bilingual branch here in New Zealand, it paved the way for the rest of the branches.

"I think that for a big organisation like ours to embrace Maori language is what we do need.

"Rotorua acknowledges iwi as the heart of the region and bringing it down here shows Rotorua this is where we believe the award sits."

Mr Atkinson said Westpac did a number of things to support iwi and Maori, including an iwi cadet scheme and its involvement with Te Wiki o te Reo Maori (Maori Language Week) in July this year.

Rotorua's branch also displays signs in te reo and English, a project to be extended nationwide.

Pukeroa Oruawhata Group chairman Malcolm Short said Ngati Whakaue were pleased to be represented at the powhiri.

"It's really a pleasure on behalf of Ngati Whakaue and Te Arawa as a whole that our Maori language is being revived in such a way that it's coming into the banks."

Ngati Whakaue kaumatua Pihopa Kingi said with a lot of central North Island treaty settlements occurring, it was important to have a regional bank with a bilingual focus.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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