One of the amusing news stories of this past week via social media is the one about the Pakeha woman who asked a question on Air New Zealand's Facebook page.
In response to the airline's use of the greeting ''Kia Ora" in its reply to her, she declared: "Hello, (I'm not Māori)".
The exchange continued with the phrase "taihoa koe, ka kite" to which the woman responded with, "I'm still not Maori. What's the translation of that?" at which point another poster chimed in with a link to the online Māori dictionary.
It's getting up towards 50 years since September 14, 1972, when a 30,000-signature petition was presented to Parliament seeking the establishment of a Māori Language Day.
Not long afterwards in 1975, a signal year in our history which also saw the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal, the first Te Wiki O Te Reo Maori - Māori language week – was held.
It's also been over 30 years (1984) since a courageous Naida Glavish of Ngati Whatua was demoted in her job as a telephone tolls operator for greeting people with the "Kia ora" phrase.
It took the intervention of the Prime Minister of the day, a playful Robert Muldoon, to get her reinstated famously saying that she could greet customers however she pleased as long as she didn't use the Australian term "G'day Blue".
Shortly after, in 1986, the Waitangi Tribunal released its report on the Te Reo Maori claim.
The tribunal found that te reo was a taonga under Article 2 of the Treaty – the Maori version of which says in part: "Te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua, o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa" meaning the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures.
The same treaty article guaranteed the protection of Maori rangatiratanga over these matters by the Queen.
But the tTribunal found that the Queen i.e. the Crown, had failed in its duty to protect te reo as a taonga and redress was sought. The response by the Government was astounding.
Using efforts to preserve the Welsh language in the UK as a model, a whole range of measures came into being. One was the establishment of Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori – The Māori Language Commission; the creation of the iwi broadcasting network (and ultimately Māori TV); the Kohanga Reo movement leading on to the establishment of kaupapa Māori schools. Maori was made an official language of this country under the Māori Language Act (1987).
Government departments made a sincere effort to give effect to these measures leading the way by acquiring new Māori names that reflected an enthusiasm for a bi-lingual and therefore bi-cultural approach to public service life. The benefits were obvious.
There was suddenly access to a fresh way of building better relationships between front-line government departments in their engagement with Māori.
Outside government in the Kiwi mainstream the main champion for advancing te reo in my opinion has continued to be Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori which has gone from strength to strength over the years and is now a much looked forward to event for many.
"Kia ora" has become a standard greeting nationally and internationally and Air New Zealand has been leading the way in this respect.
I've noticed over the years how the range of expressions used by cabin crew and ground staff alike has continually expanded and the pronunciation is, in most cases, perfect. Well done you. You notice the impact of this social evolution in many ways. Run into a Kiwi in the United Kingdom and nine times out of 10 he or she will respond to Kia ora with relief. Someone from home! Yes!
So, in my opinion, the woman on social media must be living in a cupboard somewhere.
Kia ora is no longer just for Māori. Ask my Indian owner at the local dairy who merrily greets me with it even when I'm a little worse for wear after a night out.
You would be hard pressed to get through a normal day in this country without hearing it. I now get morena and ata marie from Pakeha people all the time and little Māori phrases and words slide easily into daily conversations.
Most people know what the word whanau means along with words and phrases such as kai, kapai, e hoa, ka kite, mihi and ma te wa.
I am continually surprised by little Pakeha kids coming up to me to show off their ability to korero Māori. I know that in Tauranga it is very difficult to get on to a Māori language course – most of them are booked solid by, yes, Pakeha people.
The airwaves are alive with te reo as is television – in fact National Radio and TVNZ have been champions and flag bearers of the cause. My daughter who lives in Australia is stunned on her visits home by the spread and growth of the use of the language in the broadcasting space in her time away.
I like this sea change. It perfectly fits with our international reputation as being an innovative little country that punches far above its weight in many spheres and it would be a fine thing were we to lead the world by showing the way in how to celebrate and, more importantly, use the indigenous language which is our shared heritage.
Now all I have to do is to get more people to say "Tow-wrung-ah" instead of "Towel-rang-ah" for Tauranga – the place we all live - and we'll be sweet bro.