Tauranga or Towel Wronger? "If you're from Tauranga, if you call this your home, pronounce it correctly."

That's the view of well-known artist Graham Hoete, or "Mr G", who has had enough of people getting it wrong.

"Hearing people say towel-wronger constantly, it just got to the point that I wanted to use my art in a way as a positive change agent," he said. "To just encourage and challenge people to pronounce it correctly."

"With correct pronunciation, you're respecting the culture, you're respecting where you're from."


Hoete is best known for his large-scale, spray-painted portraits such as the "Kaitiakitanga" mural on a Mauao water tank.

His Tauranga painting is taking him in a different direction.

"This is probably a bit more conceptual - strong concept, strong message, clear and bold."

Hoete says the reaction to his painting has been mostly positive.

"I've had people requesting to make T-shirts of it, prints, and all that sort of stuff. Everyone's right behind it. I just think that's a good thing. People can take ownership of it.

"Even in the last 24 to 48 hours, I've had people self-correct themselves when they're talking to me, in a light-hearted fashion. They don't feel scolded or anything like that.

"I believe it's important the way we do this sort of stuff, to do it in a way where people don't switch off."

Former Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy supports Mr G's message.


"He's a very creative, artistic, brilliant guy getting across a message in a very fabulous way," she said. "He's clever isn't he? He's made a very subtle dig."

Devoy says the region's politicians need to lead by example.

"Everyone should be saying it, all of our councillors, all people standing as elected leaders. It should be part and parcel if you want to be a civic leader - that you learn to pronounce. It's not that hard."

For anyone having trouble saying Tauranga correctly, Mr G has some tips.

"Throughout the month of September on my facebook page, social media and Instagram, I'm going to be giving highly practical tips on how people can pronounce words quickly, and just different perspectives from te reo experts to people who struggle as well.

"If the people of Tauranga can get it right, hopefully it can be a positive example for other cities and throughout Aotearoa to do the same."

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