A Whangārei school and a Kaitaia-based media company have both won in the national Māori Language Awards.

Winners of The Māori Language Commission's 15th Ngā Tohu Reo Māori, the National Māori Language Awards, were announced at a ceremony at Te Papa on Friday night.

Whangārei Girls' High School didn't win the Māori Language Week category it was a finalist in, but was awarded a Ngā Tohu Kairangi Special Commendation Award for organising Whangārei's first Māori Language Week parade.

Meanwhile, Te Hiku Media won the Aotearoatanga New Zealand Community category for Kōrero Māori, a project it started to allow computers and mobile devices to "speak" te reo Māori.

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Ngahiwi Apanui, tumuaki (chief executive) of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission), congratulated the Northland winners.

"The two Northland winners represent very different but essential supports for revitalisation: digital innovation bringing the latest technology and the Māori language together, and brilliant grass-roots organising based on the enthusiasm of youth. Haramai tētahi āhua [you are awesome]," he said.

Whangārei Girls' High School won a Ngā Tohu Kairangi Special Commendation Award for organising Whangārei's first Māori Language Week parade. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Whangārei Girls' High School won a Ngā Tohu Kairangi Special Commendation Award for organising Whangārei's first Māori Language Week parade. Photo / Michael Cunningham

When the Northern Advocate spoke to Moana-Aroha Henry, Whangārei Girls High School kaiako Māori (Māori teacher), about being a finalist in the Māori Language Week category, she said it was an acknowledgement of the "huge success" the school had with the hikoi.

"We've had really good feedback from all those that participated, and even those that didn't participate but heard about it.

"The girls are really excited about the acknowledgement. Because it was the first time that the hikoi happened, for some of them they didn't know what to expect," she said.

Peter-Lucas Jones, general manager of Te Hiku Media, told the Advocate earlier in the week it was exciting to be a finalist, particularly because the project was Māori language voice recognition.

"We ran a successful crowd-sourcing campaign working with Māori language-speaking communities to capture Māori language utterances to teach computers how to speak Māori, and so from our point of view it's a celebration of everyone who has been involved in the project."

There is now a website koreromaori.io where there is a programme which can transcribe spoken Māori language to text.

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"These types of projects are generally led by academics and researches and our project is very different in that it's not a research project it's a development and innovation project which is haukāinga [home people] led."

Te Puna o Te Ao Marama Trust, which runs the Te Reo Māori Cafe held at The Old Stone Butter Factory in Whangārei, was a finalist in the New Zealand Community category.