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BurgerFuel's Hoki Dokey burger perpetuates misuse of Māori language, advocates say

BurgerFuel's latest burger has left a sour taste in the mouths of passionate te reo Māori advocates.

Burgerfuel's Hoki Dokey burger. Source: Burgerfuel

By Hania Douglas

In an attempt to play on the rhyming phrase "okey-dokey", the company coined the name "Hoki-Dokey" for its latest creation, which mispronounces the Māori fish name "hoki" - which is pronounced "haw-kee", rather than "hoe-key".

It's yet another example of perpetuating the misuse of te reo Māori language advocates say.

It comes hot off the back of the Watties debacle where the sauce company was called out for playing with Māori place names in one of their ad campaigns.

"Essentially it's a middle finger to all of us Māori and non-Māori who've really been trying to over the past few years and our whole lives really through generations to revitalise the language," te reo Māori advocate Kaye Waapu said.

Ms Waapu happened to come across the advertising campaign for the BurgerFuel "special edition Fush & Chups Meal" on Facebook and was left in disbelief.

"It was just immediate disgust and disappointment, especially given they're a global brand, and here, yet again, is another global brand blatantly mispronouncing our reo," she says.

"There's been so much work that's been going in media and in the background and it's just a step back really."

Her distaste for the misuse of the Māori name is also shared by Shona West, a te reo Māori teacher at a Hawke's Bay secondary school.

"Ka puta mai tēnei kamupene pērā, ka puta mai te tūkino o ā rātou mahi e pā ana ki tō tātou reo me ōna tikanga - hē rawa atu tērā!"
(Whenever such a company comes out, their actions and our language and culture will be abused - no more!)

West holds a number of positions on different education boards including a kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa, and PPTA Te Wehengarua. She says it's not a reflection of where society needs to be in regards to treasuring te reo Māori.

"I roto i tēnei ao hurihuri kei te kī mai te kāwanatanga ki a mātou kia whakatika ngā mea e pā ana ki te reo Māori - he aha ai i whakarite ka puta mai tēnei raruraru? He aha ai i whakarite rātou he pai tēnei?" (In this changing world, the government is telling us to fix things around the Māori language - why not make this happen? Why do they decide this is good?)

Both women have sent a complaint to the company but say they're disappointed by the response.

"It was a pretty crappy response in all honesty," says Waapu, "Terrible, disappointing, disgusting - I can't think of any more kupu that would explain how blasé they've been about the whole thing, and they actually just tried to sweep it under the rug and hope that that would placate us and quieten us down, but it won't."

In a statement to Te Karere, BurgerFuel said "by no means was the burger's name intended to offend anyone or support incorrect pronunciation" and that staff received memos around the correct pronunciation of "hoki".

"We appreciate the insight and point of view that some of our customers have given us and want to continue using Maori names rather than having to refer to NZ fish species like "hoki" as "whiptail" or "blue grenadier".

"We like the way the language is weaved into everyday life in New Zealand - even though some of us may need to try harder than others to get the pronunciation correct! We think this, along with fish and chips (or fush and chups for some), are part of being Kiwi."

"We are discussing ways with the team on how we can make things clearer whenever we use te reo with regards to correct pronunciation and cultural issues. In the past we have worked with brands like Taranaki iwi-owned enterprise Kaitahi.

"Thanks to feedback and suggestions from our customers we now have some new expert contacts that we can approach for future campaigns."