If Te Wiki o Te Reo, or Maori Language Week, is about making te reo more mainstream, more acceptable and more everyday in New Zealand life, then those that govern us can do two simple, straightforward things.

1. Drop the English verse of the National Anthem.

2. Make all road signs bilingual.

Yes, the rednecks will scream. People will protest. Newsrooms will dine out on the disaffected for weeks.


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Too bad.

We'll get over it.

If te reo is to gain widespread acceptance in New Zealand life, and it should because it's ours, then we have to start putting it more front and centre with everybody more often.

The National Anthem part is easy. We could start tonight at the stadium in Wellington.

I don't care if South Africa's anthem has five languages. They have a more tortured history of race relations to heal than we do.

14 Sep, 2018 3:30am
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13 Sep, 2018 9:45am
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Our current hybrid does go on a bit. Many people, probably a majority, still don't know the Māori words of the first verse.

Drop the English words and we'll all have to learn a bit more than just E Ihowā Atua.

Anyway, in the 21st century do we really need to be singing about voices entreating, and being guarded from the shafts of strife and war?

I was at Twickenham for that Rugby World Cup match in 1999 when Hinewehi Mohi became the first to sing the anthem in te reo. The pushback was ferocious.

Even Ms Mohi herself said afterwards she wouldn't do it again. I was criticised for merely reporting the moment. Some 1 News viewers, apparently, didn't think we needed to know what had happened.

That was then. This is now. We embrace the first verse in 2018.

Let's do just as Wales does. There's not a word of English in Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and they've been singing that in public places since 1905. And it's spine-tingling.

Wales, and Ireland and Canada don't have any issues with bilingual road signs either. Why should they? As in New Zealand, those countries have more than one official language.

In fact in Wales, new regulations were gazetted only two years ago that insist the Welsh language should be the more prominent of the two on a road sign. They've had two languages on their signs since 1965. It's a way of life. Everybody knows araf means slow.

It's the same in Canada. Stop signs also say arret. A motorway exit is a sortie.

We could start with hoatu ara at our Give Way intersections and mutu at Stop signs.

It won't happen overnight but with all the new roads being built in the next decade, there'll be thousands of new signs going up. Change that unfathomably stupid Transport Agency regulation about traffic control devices being only in English and we're away.

If this government really wants us to believe it's courageous and transformational and all those other warm fuzzy things we're having working groups about, these are two really simple moves to make us a more united and bicultural society.

We don't even need to have a conversation about it Jacinda.

In the meantime Lizzie Marvelly, you could help by stopping at the bit just before God of Nations ...