Working together with our te reo Māori Heritage

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) have joined in a Mahi Tahi (working together) agreement to promote and revitalise the Māori language and, through the Māori language, celebrate New Zealand’s heritage.

Heritage New Zealand provides advice to both central and local government, property owners including iwi, hapū and whānau, and others on identifying, protecting and promoting New Zealand’s heritage sites. It regulates the protection of archaeological sites, whether or not they are identified or recorded, and manages 43 nationally significant heritage properties. An example is Māngungu Mission overlooking the Hokianga Harbour where the largest signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi took place on 12 February 1840. Another is Te Waimate Mission in Northland, New Zealand’s second oldest building, which shares stories of important early encounters between Māori and Europeans.

The Chief Executives, Andrew Coleman of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and Ngahiwi Apanui of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, say the two organisations are the most natural alliance imaginable.

“Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is delighted to be part of this Mahi Tahi agreement,” says Mr Coleman.

“Te reo was the first language in New Zealand and, along with Māori heritage, is central to this country’s unique identity. This agreement fits perfectly within our Māori Heritage Council’s vision for Māori heritage – which is contained in the publication Tapuwae.

“As Tapuwae states, Māori heritage places give meaning and prestige to the history, traditions, culture and identity of whanau, hapū and iwi. They include sacred and historic sites, ancestral places, tribal landmarks, cultural landscapes and built heritage features. Māori place names help tell that story and give it meaning,” says Māori Heritage Council chairman Sir John Clarke.

For Mr Apanui, the Māori language links our most ancient historical associations with this land to our present day lives.

“Our physical heritage sites need more than preservation they need celebration, use, investigation, discussion and debate. So too with the Māori language,” says Mr Apanui.

“The use of the Māori language in association with our heritage allows us to see an additional cultural perspective as well as bringing us in contact with the actions of the first people in Aotearoa in their naming, story-telling and settling of the land and the harvesting and management of its resources.

“The Māori language is a substantial support of tourism, our largest export industry. The Māori language says ‘you are in New Zealand’ like nothing else, and the use of Māori words, sayings, names and stories add greatly to the tourist experience. Te reo Māori brings a sense of authenticity, of indigenous experience and of genuine contact with another people and their history.

“This experience in turn encourages domestic and foreign tourists into contact with Māori tourism ventures of all sorts and establishes the uniqueness of a New Zealand experience.

“In practical terms we are looking at increased use of te reo Māori in commentaries, signage and increased expertise by those involved with heritage in using te reo Māori to enhance visitor understanding and enjoyment, even though the principal language used may still be English, or other languages like Chinese.

“The land, sea, forests and people of New Zealand all have their Māori language histories. Our new agreement and our proposed language plan will help liberate these and increase New Zealanders’ and visitors’ enjoyment of our heritage.”