10 Nov 2015

Māori TV advertises for new receptionists

8:26 pm on 10 November 2015

Māori Television has today advertised jobs for two receptionists who speak te reo Māori.

Wide of the Maori Television building in Newmarket, Auckland.

The Maori Television building in Newmarket, Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

It comes as two receptionists who do not speak Te Reo work out their notice, after being made redundant.

Paora Maxwell.

Paora Maxwell Photo: MAORI TV

Māori Television CEO Paora Maxwell would not answer questions and was not available for an interview today.

But Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, who the Māori TV board answers to, had a different view on te reo Māori expectations in his workplace.

When asked whether his receptionist spoke Māori, he said: "No, I can't say that they do, but what we've endeavoured to do is certainly make sure - I mean, it's been over a while, but most of them have picked up on Te Reo.

"In fact, even this year, we made it compulsory at least for one week to signify the desire to have a higher level of Te Reo spoken."

Mr Flavell was asked whether it would be fair to make them redundant because they did not speak Te Reo.

He hired them for their skills across the board and he took that into consideration, he said.

Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Māori TV's two middle-aged female receptionists, who were made redundant for their inability to speak the language, were not so lucky.

Mr Maxwell said in a statement: "Māori Television has undertaken a realignment of its strategy to support its vision for Māori language to be valued, embraced and spoken by all New Zealanders."

"As part of ongoing work to connect role outcomes to vision, the finance and administration team is undergoing some structural changes.

"Part of this change will see a requirement for the two receptionist roles, which are one of our most important public-facing positions, to be fluent in both te reo Māori and English."

That statement has some questioning recent directives by Māori TV management.

RNZ understands managers are directing people to choose English programme titles instead of Māori ones.

Māori television producer Piripi Curtis, meanwhile, who makes the lifestyle programme Pete and Pio, said he was asked to translate the show's titles into English from Māori.

Learners need support - Māori Language Commission

Māori Language Commission CEO Ngahiwi Apanui said the use of te reo Māori had declined over the past 12 years, with just 4 to 5 percent of the population using it.

Te reo Māori learners were often too shy to kōrero, he said.

"A lot of these people won't speak Māori, because when they make mistakes people jump on them."

There were three groups of Māori language speakers and "learners" were the largest of them, he said.

But supporting that large group of beginners to become intermediate speakers was the key.

"We need to change our attitudes towards learners and, when they make mistakes, allow them to make mistakes and find ways to correct them that don't destroy them."

At the Māori Language Commission, 90 percent of staff speak Māori.

Mr Maxwell would not say how many staff spoke Te Reo at the station but, Mr Curtis said, there were many in key positions who did not.

From his experience, not a lot of Te Reo was used when he visited.

"My Reo is not the greatest so I find it easier to get key concepts across in English but we don't [speak] much Māori with anyone I deal with or have dealt with in the past so, as I say, there's an incredible precedent being set, given a lot of people don't use Te Reo in that place, beyond the receptionists."

Mr Apanui said it was important for organisations like Māori TV to support te reo Māori spoken in the workplace and that extended to learners of Te Reo.

"One of the big things for me, and as an organisation that promotes te reo Māori - we need to be inclusive, and to look after those who don't and want to."

There are many staff members upset with the decision to make the station's receptionists redundant, and a staff meeting in the future may be on the cards.