Far North councillor to speak only te reo Māori during meetings for Māori language month

6:34 pm on 14 September 2020

Far North District Council (FNDC) will this month likely become the first council in New Zealand with a councillor participating solely in te reo Māori at a full council meeting.

Far North District Council councillor Moko Tepania

Far North District Council councillor Moko Tepania Photo: LDR/ Susan Botting

Moko Tepania (Te Rarawa/Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa) will be speaking only te reo during council meeting deliberations.

"I'm going to challenge myself for Mahuru Māori [Māori language] month," Tepania said.

"I'll be speaking te reo from when the meeting's opened with a karakia until it's closed with another karakia."

Mahuru Māori is a longer version of this week's Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o te Reo Māori.

Councillor debate is a key democratic feature of council meetings. Far North District Council's (FNDC) 23 September meeting will, as always, feature discussion as part of decision making about agenda items.

Tepania will speak te reo with a person translating his words into English. Meeting minutes will be recorded in te reo Māori and English.

First-term councillor Tepania, who turns 30 on 23 September, is bilingual and Northland's youngest local body councillor. He teaches te reo at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.

He is FNDC's Te Ao Māori portfolio lead and is on the national executive of Local Government New Zealand Council (LGNZ) subcommittee Te Maruata - a collective of Māori working in governance within local government and their communities. He is also chair of LGNZ's national young elected members' committee.

Tepania said it was pleasing to see the use of te reo growing in local government and his goal was to normalise te reo in everyday life.

He is working to develop a te reo language resource for New Zealand councils.

This work, through Te Maruata working with the Māori Language Commission, will develop resources for local government terminology such as wastewater, stormwater, capital expenditure, operational expenditure and resource management.

"This can be used as a starting point. It's like here's the backbone you can use, you can put the meat on it (through further developing the basic vocabulary with local dialects)," he said.

"The commission did this with Covid-19 terminology for words like contact tracing and social distancing."

Tepania is also putting up [www.facebook.com/CRMokoTepania daily Māori language teaching posts] with English translation to his Facebook page for Mahuru Māori.

In May, Tepania presented New Zealand's first bilingual full council meeting agenda item report to an FNDC meeting. Just over half of the Far North's 68,500 residents identify as Māori.

FNDC uses bilingual signage in its parks and libraries.

"Our parks' dogs prohibited signage also includes Te Reo - Horekau Kurī," Tepania said.

"Our liquor ban/alcohol prohibited signs also say Wahi Waipiro Kore".

FNDC will soon be holding a Te Ao Māori workshop with councillors and senior management. Tepania is working on the workshop with the council's Te Hono Māori development and relationships unit. He will run a te reo session. The workshop will look at the Far North's Māori cultural landscape including looking at local iwi rohe (the territory or boundaries of iwi) areas, which have settled Treaty of Waitangi claims and pronunciation of local place names.

Meanwhile, Tepania supports a recent move by councils at LGNZ's annual meeting to lobby to make it easier for councils to use correctly macronised Māori names for their organisation.

Tepania comes from the tiny North Hokianga west coast community of Mitimiti. His first language is English. He started learning te reo formally at the age of 13, as a student at Pompallier Catholic College in Whāngarei.

"I started taking te reo over French at school - that was because we also got fed in te reo classes," Tepania said.

He lived in Whāngarei with his nana Wero Campbell from Mitimiti, who was a te reo first language speaker. Campbell switched to speaking te reo full time in the home to support Tepania.

"So I had formal class te reo and then everyday te reo at home."

For more on Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o te Reo Māori go to www.tewikiotereomaori.co.nz.

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