Te reo Māori classes at the Whanganui District Health Board are so popular they're booked out and more courses have had to be planned for the extra demand.

The DHB had been running after hours te reo classes for staff during winter for the last two years and said it would plan more for October.

The DHB's director of Māori Health, Rowena Kui, said staff attended the te reo classes in their own time and places were taken within minutes of being offered.

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The courses were run in collaboration with UCOL in Whanganui and Kui said they were about giving staff the basics and encouraging them to give the language a go.

"We learned about the significance of the Whanganui awa (river) and various landmarks and did some weaving, sang lots of waiata and there was a great deal of laughter," said nurse manager Declan Rogers.

Rogers said it was not only a chance to learn the language but to better understand Māori culture.

"We know it takes years of practice to become fluent but even pronouncing patients' names correctly or a friendly 'Kia ora', 'Morena', 'Ahiahi mārie' or 'Pōmārie', goes some way to help Māori feel more welcome," said Rowena Kui.

Kui said on average Māori do not enjoy the same health as non-Māori - something the DHB was committed to changing.

Māori make up about a quarter of the Whanganui district population and almost half of that number are children.

Class tutor and DHB haumoana educator Mal Rerekura said the aim was for staff to start with baby steps, using the odd word every day to build confidence.

He suggested sounding out street names, learning simple waiata and the national anthem, listening to Māori radio and TV and using the internet to learn a new word a day or a week.