"It's cool to kōrero and it doesn't just stop here" is the message being promoted by te reo Māori speakers across the Bay of Plenty.

While this encapsulates this year's Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori theme: Kia Kaha te Reo Māori - Let's make the Māori language strong, Michelle Englehardt (Ngāpuhi) from Tauranga City Libraries hoped one day there would be no need for a dedicated week.

As the community programmes specialist and someone who has recently reconnected with her whakapapa, Englehardt once dreamt of a space where people could come together and practise their te reo Māori and this week it came true as part of the libraries Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori activities.

"I have always wanted a wāhi kōrero (practice space) because there are people who go to classes but don't have people in their whānau who they can practise with."

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Māori kēmu (games) were part of the activites. Photo / Leah Tebbutt
Māori kēmu (games) were part of the activites. Photo / Leah Tebbutt

It was not a teaching space but more an opportunity for beginners or those more practised to feel comfortable to share their kōrero in "the lounge of the community," Englehardt said.

"We'd like to have these spaces once a month because I hope one day New Zealand is bilingual.

"I think we have reached a tipping point in that people see the value of te reo Māori and the more people use it the more natural it will become."

Those in attendance were invited to play a traditional Māori game, Mū Tōrere where players move stones around an eight-pointed star. Library mātanga hōtaka taiohi Māori Jess Mills (Ngāi Te Rangi) had prepared packs of the game for people to take home.

She said through te reo people were able to connect back to their culture, and the game was just another example.

Meremaihi Aloua (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui) was taking part in Mahuru Māori, where she is trying to speak te reo Māori as much as she can in a Pākehā context and had come to support the library's initiative.

"I want to normalise te reo Māori in our day to day which will help not only our people but our country and we will get to know who we are traditionally and as contemporary Māori."

Today there is another event at the library at 12.30pm.

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