A waiata performed in two different languages at the same time radiated from the public gallery during yesterday's Whangārei District Council meeting.

The group of around 20 students, who have been on a 10-week New Zealand Sign Language course, gathered to say thank you to the council for funding it.

An interpreter helped them express their gratitude to councillors before the group sang and signed Te Aroha.

More than 30 students took part in the weekly classes which finish this week, which is also International Week of Deaf.


Kim Robinson helped organise the classes and said they were held in three locations: St Stephens Church in Onerahi, Northable and Te Kura o Ōtangarei School.

The council provided a grant worth $2600 plus GST, and the teaching time and administration was donated to make up the difference.

Robinson said whanau, work and learning a new language were some of the reasons students joined the classes.

Rich Soper was one of those who was on the course. Soper is a Whangārei police officer and said he went on the course after the police put the opportunity out to staff.

Soper recalled how difficult it was to communicate with a victim he had dealt with in his job, who had a hearing impairment, even with a piece of paper.

He said learning sign language "took a bit of practise" but he knows the sign language alphabet as well as basic words and phrases and has been passing it on to his children.

"It was really cool, I thoroughly enjoyed it."

The students will be awarded certificates for completing the course on Saturday at St Stephens Church Hall.