End of the line for Nigh-oh and Para-pa-rumu

6:54 pm on 17 June 2016

The pronunciation of Māori place names announced on Wellington trains hasn't always been accurate, but the Greater Wellington Regional Council is on track to change all that.

Stations such as Ngaio will now be said correctly in te reo Māori, as the council puts in place new recordings for all automated announcements on the region's trains.

Metlink train in Wellington.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is updating its station announcements to be accurately spoken in te reo Māori. Photo: Supplied / GWRC

Terese McCleod of Taranaki Whānui - the mana whenua of the Port Nicholson area - was among those celebrating the upgrade.

"I'm so excited by that. It's fantastic people are making the effort to move towards correcting these mispronunciations and normalising it in these contexts.

"It's very, very important that we do that, to hear it properly."

Terese McCleod of Taranaki Whānui, the mana whenua of the Port Nicholson area

Terese McCleod Photo: Supplied

For the last few years, Auckland Transport has used a Māori actor to make sure the names in its station announcements are said correctly.

Now, the Greater Wellington Regional Councili is getting up to speed.

Te Pou Whakarae (Māori Relationships Manager) Rawiri Faulkner said the council was on track to roll out new recordings on its trains in the next two weeks.

"We acknowledge that, if it is wrong on a particular station, it should be fixed. I have been aware of the words where they have been mispronounced, and that's why we've gone through the process of rectifying it like we have."

Greater Wellington Regional Council Te Pou Whakarae for Māori relationships Rawiri Faulkner

Rawiri Faulkner Photo: Supplied

While not all Māori place names were mispronounced, there was a need for change, he said.

"We should be pronouncing Māori kupu correctly, there's no doubt about that, and we all have a responsibility as Māori and as New Zealanders to do that."

Victoria University of Wellington teaching fellow Vini Olsen-Reeder, who studies te reo Māori and bilingualism, said he had noticed some of the pronunciation was not always very precise.

Victoria University of Wellington teaching fellow, Vincent Olsen-Reeder

Vincent Olsen Reeder Photo: Supplied

"Classic ones have to be names like 'Para-pa-rumu' (Paraparaumu) and 'Nigh-oh' (Ngaio)."

The change would help Greater Wellington Regional Council move towards better relationships with local Māori, Mr Olsen-Reeder said.

He said normalising the use of te reo Māori would help everyone.

"Just promoting the normal use of correct pronunciation of Te Reo," he said.

"There's a little bit of research around that suggesting it's really what happens in everyday life that moves people towards pronouncing things a certain way and having certain attitudes towards minority languages, so it's a really cool gesture towards that."

National Centre of Tertiary Teaching Excellence Ako Aotearoa deputy director Joe Te Rito praised the council's change of direction.

"This is wonderful news for te reo Māori and its ongoing survival."

Dr Te Rito said the government had supported Māori language initiatives through law changes and funding, but for a regional authority to undertake such an initiative was hugely significant.

"It is a further uplifting of the status of te reo Māori as a worthy taonga for all, and not just for Māori. For years Māori have endured poor Māori pronunciation through the mainstream broadcasting media and indeed within parts of the education sector. However, this move signals to mainstream society that, 'Hey, it's okay to speak Māori'."

Mr Faulkner said the new recordings were not the only change afoot.

"We're going through a continuous process of making sure we evolve and improve.

"We've got some bilingual terms on bus signs, things like that, so we're always looking for ways to improve what we do to support the native tongue."

The Māori Language Commission, which had raised the issue with Wellington's trains as early as 2014, said it was very pleased to hear the council was addressing issues around pronunciation - and while it had not heard the new audio yet, it was looking forward to do doing so.

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