Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Ko Te Wiki o te Reo Māori tēnei. Ko whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā mātua te kaupapa, arā, ka manaakitia e tātau ngā mātua ki te ako, ki te kōrero tā tātau reo, kia whāngaihia te reo e rātau ki ā tātau tamariki.

I te tau nei he āhua orite te mahi mo tātau.  Ia wiki, ia wiki ka whakawhiwhia e Te Taura Whiri tētahi kupu me tētahi rerenga kōrero. Ko e te tau te kupu o tēnei wiki, ko haramai, e te tau te rerenga kōrero.

This week is Māori Language Week. The theme of the week is fostering the Māori language in parents – if we support parents to learn and speak te reo, they can foster and teach the language to our children.

This year Te Taura Whiri have used the same idea as last year – one word a week, extended to include a short sentence or saying. This week’s word is ‘e te tau’ (darling), and the sentence is ‘Haramai, e te tau’ (come here, my darling).

Anei ētahi atu kia whāngaihia tō reo.

To help foster your language, here are a few more examples.

Tō ātaahua hoki!             You’re so beautiful.

Kei te mamae tō puku?    Is your tummy sore?

Tō kakara hoki!               You smell lovely.

Kei hea tō koti?               Where is your coat?

Māku koe e āwhina.         I will help you.

Ka nui tēnā.                    That’s enough.

Ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia Māori


Wellington 150

Wellington in 1866, the year after it became the capital (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Alexander Fisher Album)

Wellington in 1866, the year after it became the capital (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Alexander Fisher Album)

This weekend Wellington celebrates a birthday – 150 years as the capital city of New Zealand. To mark this event, a host of national and local institutions are participating in The Treasures of Wellington, a series of free tours and events. On Saturday Dave Dobbyn and the Orpheus Choir will perform on the grounds of Parliament, accompanied by a sound-and-light show about the city’s history. Wellington will be in celebration mode.

Roll back 150-odd years and the mood in Wellington was not only celebratory, but triumphant. In January 1865 the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian reported that the city was ‘preparing herself to take that station among the New Zealand provinces which her central position and natural advantages have so well fitted her for, and which have marked her as the Capital of the Colony’.

Wellington’s gain was Auckland’s loss. Auckland had been the capital city since 1841, when Governor William Hobson moved his premises from Okiato near present-day Russell in the Bay of Islands, after being offered land in Tāmaki-makau-rau by Ngāti Whātua chiefs. In an era of scattered settlements, basic transport links and painfully slow postal services, Auckland was very far removed from the rest of the population. In 1854 New Zealand’s first head of government, James FitzGerald, proposed moving the capital to a more central location. This first bid was unsuccessful but the issue remained a live one. In 1864, after Parliament passed a resolution to move the capital, three Australian commissioners chose Wellington over Whanganui, Picton, Port Underwood, Havelock and Nelson. The legislators set up shop in Wellington the following year.

The 19th century was a time of fierce provincial and town rivalries as different centres struggled to establish themselves as going concerns. The capital city question provoked disdainful, and at times lurid, commentary in newspapers.  The New Zealand Herald, then as now an Auckland paper, heaped scorn upon Wellington, a ‘wretched collection of dirty wooden structures, built partly upon a mud beach, and partly in the space formed by the scarping of the hill which hems the “city” into landward’ (31 March 1865, p. 4). Well-informed people knew that Wellington ‘would not make up a third rate street in Auckland’. The paper described Wellington’s impending new seat of government as:

… a very creature of Frankenstein…. The monster, however disgusted with its existence in such a spot has, like its prototype, destroyed one after another of the dearest objects of its creator’s affections. It clings to him with pertinacity, returns gibbering and grinning to him from time to time with the evidence in its hands of some new disaster which it has worked for him. (New Zealand Herald, 24 March 1865, p. 4)

Papers in rival centres like Christchurch, not facing a great loss as Auckland was, could indulge in a little pompous, self-satisfied commentary:

The great difference between the South and the North is that here the question of self-interest is really never thought of. It is no exaggeration to say so. We talk of all parts of the colony as parts of a common country having common interests. In Auckland they talk of nothing but Auckland. (Press, 14 January 1864, p. 2)

It’s fun to browse through the newspapers of the time and have a good laugh at the duelling colonials, but things are not so different now. In 2013 Prime Minister John Key told a meeting of Auckland businesspeople that Wellington was dying, much to the chagrin of many Wellingtonians, who vociferously defended the health of their city. Then-Labour Party leader David Shearer retorted, ‘This is absolutely negatively John Key talking about Wellington, it’s a vibrant city, anybody that drives down to Courtenay Place on a Thursday or Friday night knows that’. Perhaps in another 150 years readers will chuckle over statements like this.

On the house

State house, Taitā, 1949 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

State house, Taitā, 1949 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

It seems as though everyone is talking about housing at the moment. What is causing high house prices, particularly in Auckland? What role should government play in the provision of housing? Do renters need greater rights and security?

If you want some background and wider historical context for these discussions, Te Ara is the place to go. You could start with the entries by urban historian Ben Schrader on housing and Māori housing – te noho whare. But there are also entries on such topics as housing and government, domestic architecture, building materials, home décor and furnishings, Māori architecture – whare Māori and real estate, as well as information on more specialised subjects such as railway housing and inner-city flats.

Here are some interesting things about housing I read on Te Ara:

  • New Zealand’s first building regulation – the Raupo Houses Ordinance – was passed as early as 1842. It sought to deal with the perceived fire risk of buildings made from raupō or other grasses by imposing financial penalties on such buildings.
  • From the 1870s, Māori were incorporating European materials, including glazed windows, into traditional wharepuni (sleeping houses).
  • The first state house was opened (with Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage famously carrying in some of the furniture) in the Wellington suburb of Miramar in 1937.
  • Māori were not admitted into state housing until 1948, and were placed into predominantly Pākehā neighbourhoods (‘pepper-potting’) to encourage assimilation.
  • New Zealand’s home ownership rate peaked at 73% in 1986, and had fallen to 62% by 2006. You can see a chart of housing tenure (owner-occupied versus rented and other) over a 90-year period here.
  • In the early 2000s, average house prices in the Queenstown Lakes area overtook those in Auckland. I wonder how they compare now?

And when you’ve finished browsing through all the fascinating information about houses, you can always return to Te Ara’s home page by clicking on – what else? – a little icon of a house!

Remembering Tairongo Amoamo

Tairongo Amoamo shows Hutt Valley High School students Māori biographies (pic: Quintessential Images)

Tairongo Amoamo shows Hutt Valley High School students published Māori biographies (pic: Quintessential Images)

Last Saturday I had an unexpected reunion with some of my old colleagues from the Dictionary of New Zealand biography project, but the occasion was a sad one – the farewell for Tairongo Amoamo, who passed away on 8 July. From 1990 to 2000, Tairongo was Māori editor for the Dictionary, with responsibility for translating the entries on Māori subjects into te reo. He was a native speaker of the language, and his reo was, as Ranginui Walker said in his eulogy, ‘impeccable’. Tairongo was passionate about his work on the Māori volumes, known as Ngā tāngata taumata rau – the people of many peaks.  But he was much more than a translator – he was a generous teacher and friend to those of us who worked with him. Through him we were introduced to the important principles of tikanga and manners – imparted in a kindly, patient but very firm way!  Listening to him talk in te reo to Māori visitors in the office revealed to us that it was a living language of everyday life, as well as being a vehicle for poetry and history.  And he loved to recount the stories of the people whose lives we were recording – people like Tuakana Āporotanga, Te Pairi Tūterangi,  and of course Mokomoko. When he told these stories with such relish, they became incredibly vivid, and their ongoing deep significance for him and many others was evident. It was a lesson that in this country, history is not just about the past.

Tairongo knew that at the Dictionary, we were making history in more than one way. His lasting achievement is his contribution to Ngā tāngata taumata rau, which when complete was the largest Māori-language work to be published since the translation of the Bible in the 19th century. It was the model for subsequent translation of Māori entries in Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Haere rā Tairongo – your work will live on. Haere ki te kāinga i whakaritea e tō tātou Kaihanga mō tātou katoa.

Happy anniversary, baby

Gay liberation protest at government failure to provide time for a private member's bill on homosexual law reform, 1974 (click for image credit)

Gay liberation protest at government failure to provide time for a private member's bill on homosexual law reform, 1974 (click for image credit)

Today is the 29th anniversary of the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which decriminalised sexual activity between males. These days, with a wave of gay marriage legalisation across the globe, and politicians keen to get on-side with the gay community and be seen boogieing with drag queens at community events, it’s startling to think that not 30 years ago, consensual sex between adult men was illegal in New Zealand, and undercover police entrapped men cruising for sex on ‘beats’ such as public toilets or parks. Sex between women was not illegal, but many lesbians also joined the campaign for law reform.

I listened to some of the remarkable audio in Radio New Zealand’s 20 years out! documentaries, made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the act, and was reminded of the degree of vitriol employed by the bill’s opponents, as well as what now seems like the extreme reasonableness – timidity, even – of the gay activists’ demands. The recordings include National MP Norman ‘Normal’ Jones thundering that homosexuals should ‘go back into the sewers!’ and a 1970 clip of Brian Edwards asking ‘Gary’ (it was an era when few gay men were willing to be identified as such) if he’d sought treatment for being gay. (He had – he’d been to a psychiatrist, who told him that his attraction to men was too fixed to be changed.) Interviewed in 1978, Chris Piesse of Auckland University Gay Liberation expressed his hope for ‘a society in which people, anybody, can express their sexuality without being hassled and put down and ridiculed for it’. Rather sadly, he added, ‘It’s a very idealistic view, but I don’t think it’s impossible.’

Most prominent in opposition to the bill was the Coalition for Concerned Citizens, which in 1985 presented 91 boxes of their anti-law-reform petition to Parliament in an overblown, flag-laden ceremony that some compared to the Nuremberg Rally. Norm Jones banged on predictably about legalising sodomy, and the organisers claimed to have more than 800,000 signatures in their boxes (labelled ‘The people have spoken’). However, many of the signatures were later discredited, and the act passed the following year, by 49 votes to 44. The second part of the bill, which would have prohibited discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, was rejected; it was another seven years before the Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation. The road towards equality has been long and slow – it was not until 2005 that same-sex couples were able to legally formalise their partnerships in a civil union, and only in 2013 that same-sex marriage was made legal in New Zealand.

So I’m taking a moment today to remember all those brave men and women who came out about their sexuality despite a society that ridiculed and vilified them, who were staunch and steadfast and worked so hard for repeal of a manifestly unjust law. Happy 29th anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform Act, everyone.