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Opinion: Make all motorway signs bilingual and drop the English verse of the national anthem


So another Maori Language Week has come and gone.

Once again TV and radio presenters – Pakeha and Maori - have played their part in trying to involve audiences in Te Reo.

ONE News Presenter and columnist Peter Williams. Source: 1 NEWS

The efforts should be applauded and encouraged.

But at the end of another seven days of endless kia ora and morena and nau mai, and thankfully some other phrases as well, why do I feel as if it's just more tokenism towards this beautiful sounding official language of Aotearoa.

The broadcaster, now an expert in te reo Maori, reveals his unorthodox route into learning the language. Source: Breakfast

Is it not time, after 41 years of Maori Language Week, to take two significant steps: make all motorway signs bilingual and drop the English verse of the New Zealand National Anthem?

Changing traffic signs will be expensive and will take time.

But if Wales, Ireland and Canada can have their main traffic signs in two languages, why can't we?

A start could be made with the under construction Waikato Expressway.

Inside five years, there'll be at least a four-lane highway from north of Auckland to south of Hamilton.

As the ONE News reporter who covered the match and highlighted the first public performance of the Maori Language Version, I was chastised by both sides of the argument - Peter Williams

There's still a whole lot to be completed but as there'll be many exits to signpost along the way, couldn't we at least make a start by displaying ara ki waho to indicate an exit?

But here's a really easy suggestion to get everybody in the country singing Te Reo on a regular basis.

If we leave the English verse off the New Zealand Anthem at high profile ceremonial occasions, like rugby tests, we'll encourage ALL New Zealanders to a) learn the Maori words and b) sing them often.

I was at Twickenham for that World Cup match in 1999 when Hinewehi Mohi sent shockwaves around the thousands of All Black fans there, let alone the TV audience at home, who were just not expecting the bi-lingual version at such a game.

There were, of course, howls of outrage around the country.

As the ONE News reporter who covered the match and highlighted the first public performance of the Maori Language Version, I was chastised by both sides of the argument.

One, for highlighting something that would obviously be a one-off and the other for not suggesting this is the way it should be!

As we know, we are now into the 18th year of a two verse, bi-lingual National Anthem at public occasions.

It's been great, but now it's time to take the next step.

I was at the All Blacks – Wales test in Dunedin a few weeks ago and in the pre match ceremonies it occurred to me just how long the two verse Te Reo – English version takes.

Let alone of course, how the crowd pretty much mumbles Te Reo until the change in key after the last line Aotearoa.

Before that had been the Welsh anthem, entirely in the Welsh language and with words that are unpronounceable and unintelligible to most of us, but still with such a strong melody and sung with pride by the Welsh supporters at the stadium that night.

And I'd wager that for most of those supporters, the only time they ever speak or sing more than a word or short phrase of their national language is when they burst into some Mae henwlad fy nhadau yn annwyl I mi

So don't we have an identical situation here?

A language only spoken in this country making a song with memorable, lilting lyrics and a very familiar tune would be an experience unique for New Zealand at public ceremonies and sports events.

Besides – do we really need to warble out lines anymore about "entreating our voices" and being guarded "from shafts of strife and war"?

"God Defend New Zealand" and "Aotearoa" are both officially the New Zealand National Anthem. Both officially have five verses.

So singing one verse of each language has just developed as the convention.

Who's prepared to break with convention? Who has the courage?

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa

Let's start high profile.

The next home All Blacks test is against Australia in Wellington on August 27.

I'm sure Lizzie Marvelly is up for it.

Your call New Zealand Rugby.