For Napier City councillor Claire Hague learning te reo Maori is a long journey — a journey greatly sparked by a speech she heard by a 17-year-old when she was principal of Napier Girls' High School.

The young lady spoke of how she hoped that one day she would be able to walk into a dairy and ask for something in either English or te reo Maori and be understood.

"It was so inspiring — it really made me think," Hague said.

Since 2015 she has been taking weekly one-on-one lessons with Maori language teacher Jenny Cracknell and accordingly embraces the whole concept and vision of Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori/Maori Language Week.


She added that the link with learning the language went back a whole lot earlier.

"When I was a baby my parents taught at a tiny school in Mokai, inland from Taupo and most of the community were Māori and I was loved and cared for there — not to mention educated as I went school with my parents and all the kids," she said.

"So that may be partly why I now love learning the language."

And while in her role at the EIT as deputy chief executive for seven years she did a lot of work up the East Coast and came into constant contact with the language.

"That really cemented it for me."

She said she had always loved the challenge of learning new languages and said te reo Maori had a special place because New Zealand had the unique opportunity to be bilingual.

"It is great to see a huge number of young people learning," Hague said, adding that when she was principal at Napier Girls' she ensured there was a strong Maori language programme in place, and she helped introduce haka sessions in the hall which involved the whole school.

"It is just fabulous to see the youngsters taking it up, and they learn quickly."


Hague said for older people it was more challenging, but as she was discovering week by week it could be done.

As an experienced educationalist she said her progress showed the power of one-on-one lessons.

"I love it — it's exciting and it's great to bridge the communication gap.

"I can turn on Maori TV and I don't have to look at the captions all the time — and if I'm feeling brave I will get into conversations in te reo."

She said in terms of local government circles she was impressed and inspired by people like Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon.

"He speaks it fluently."

She said in her case she reckoned she had "years to go" to get to that point.

"It is a long journey learning te reo but it is so worthwhile."

● Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori can be celebrated with the little ones at a special storytime for under-5s at Napier Library at 10.30am on Friday. Special guests will share their love of te reo Maori through storytelling, song and crafts.

● Introduction to Maori Language Sessions (registration only event) at MTG Hawke's Bay. At 11am on Thursday and Saturday. Maori curator Te Hira Henderson will provide a free 30-minute introduction to Maori language in the surroundings of the taonga in the Tenei Tonu Gallery. Spaces limited — register at