18 Feb 2015

Weather in Te Reo sparks language debate

8:45 pm on 18 February 2015

By Alexa Cook, Te Manu Korihi Alexa.Cook@radionz.co.nz

A social media conversation surrounding the use of Māori on TV and radio has snowballed and sparked a new language debate.

Te Reo campaigner and broadcaster Pat Spellman.

Te Reo campaigner and broadcaster Pat Spellman. Photo: SUPPLIED

It comes after the 3News weather presenter Kanoa Lloyd revealed some viewers had criticised her for speaking the language.

Radio New Zealand's Head of Communications John Barr said the broadcaster received some interesting comments from listeners.

"They tend to peak around Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori - Māori language week - but they tend to be arguments that Māori have their own media so 'why should we be listening to it on Radio New Zealand', and the other argument is 'I don't understand what is being said'."

Head of news and current affairs at TVNZ John Gillespie said it received a mix of positive and negative feedback, whilst the Broadcasting Standards Authority said it got complaints over mispronunciation of Te Reo and the language being belittled.

Pat Spellman is the breakfast radio show host on the Iwi station in Tauranga, Moana Radio, and a Māori language campaigner. He said one of the problems with the acceptance of Māori was that New Zealand had promoted Te Reo Māori as special instead of normalising it:

"Because it's something that most of New Zealand still think belongs just to Māori and is just a Māori thing.

We have this issue where they don't feel as though what Kanoa is expressing on television belongs to them, it only belongs to Māori and therefore they don't digest it the same way," Pat Spellman said.

Mr Spellman said he was personally torn over the general use of Te Reo because he considered it taonga.

"It is special therefore I am wary of normalising that and ridding it of its significance. But then also the other part of me is that Te Reo is something that should be pushed as a way of life not only for Māori in Aotearoa, but for everybody. So I applaud Kanoa and TV3 and Mediaworks for allowing her to express who she is as a Māori wahine and also as a broadcaster on a mainstream outlet".

New Zealand First MP and member of the Māori Affairs Select Committee Pita Paraone said the language would be more widely accepted if more people learnt it.

"It should be regarded as a living language and spoken by all New Zealanders or at least have that all New Zealanders have that opportunity of learning the language," Pita Paraone said.

It is three decades since a national debate on the use of Te Reo was sparked when telephone exchange operator Naida Glavish was demoted for greeting callers by saying' kia ora'. Mr Paraone said he feels even though there are still similar complaints, the country had moved on since then.

"I think in reality we have come a long way and people both Maori and non Maori are encouraging of its use".

Pat Spellman from Iwi radio said if he could make one change it would be to have a greater emphasis placed on Te Reo Māori in kura - compulsory language lessons in schools.

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