Scrubbing up on their te reo Māori skills is facilities management services company, OCS New Zealand, with their Rotorua branch replacing its signage to reflect the city’s bilingual vision.
Rotorua's commitment to become New Zealand's first bilingual city became official on 11 August 2017, acknowledging the district’s history and whakapapa (cultural identity), and reinforcing the region’s reputation as the heartland of Māori culture.
OCS New Zealand Rotorua branch manager, Averill Baird says almost 40 per cent of Rotorua's population identify as Māori, as do a large number of OCS team members across New Zealand.
“We wanted our workplace to reflect the strong culture we have as a city and a team, as well as encourage non-Māori speakers to learn aspects of te reo Māori,” she says.
“The move has been welcomed, with many of the team challenging themselves to pronounce the words correctly and asking questions about the language.
“Our branch supervisor, Minnie King-MacLeod, did a lot of leg work to bring these signs to fruition and we are really proud to have made the most of this kaupapa (initiative).”
The Rotorua branch’s new te reo signage has been translated by Kōtihi Reo Consultants Limited Māori language consultant, Anaha Hiini.
Born and raised in Rotorua, of Ngāti Tarāwhai, Ngāti Whakaue and Tūhourangi descent, Mr Hiini says it’s encouraging to see a company like OCS New Zealand play an active role in the Bilingual Rotorua initiative.
“I believe the Māori language is in serious decline and for it to be spoken in a native manner comparable to 60 years prior, we need to continue to contribute to the revival of the language.”
Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairperson, Te Taru White says there are many ways te reo can be used to connect the community and Rotorua’s OCS branch has identified one of these in replacing their signage.
“Signage helps to create an environment for people to learn new kupu (words), speak more often and make greeting each other and their customers with kia ora, morena, ata marie and tēnā koe the norm.
“OCS New Zealand can be proud of their commitment to supporting Rotorua Reorua. They have certainly laid down a wero (challenge) for other businesses and organisations, large and small, to embrace that our beautiful city is reorua (bilingual).”
Bilingual Rotorua is an initiative led by Te Tatau o Te Arawa, with support from Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Puni Kōkiri.