Harmony and Māori words

As Māori is used more the debate over how much it should be taught in schools and spoken on radio grows.

Māori words have always been used, as many place names are Māori. However the language was deliberately suppressed in an ill advised education system.

The language is making a bit of a revival, with some enthusiastic supporters and promoters, but some colonial traditionalists are trying to dig their white toes in.

Kate Fryberg: Harmony and the case for Māori wards

And the voice which most needs to be heard, the key note of our harmony here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is the voice of Māori. Why? To extend the metaphor, the first human voices in this land were those of Tangata Whenua.

It is Māori heritage and culture which makes this country unique – as many of us Pākehā travellers have discovered when asked to “sing a song from your country” and we find ourselves limping through a half-remembered version of Pōkarekare Ana.

Singing that a bit is one of my few memories of Māori at school.

More importantly, it is thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi that we non-Māori have the opportunity to live here. We have been invited to add our voices to the original songs.

We non-Māori, including we Pākehā.

The term Pākehā has had some bad vibes for some, but when I investigated i found that the term refereed to “the soft and loud sounds of the language of Captain Cook and his sailors” load see The soft and loud of “Pākehā”.

I am quite comfortable with being referred to as Pākehā, even though I do more soft than loud.

I have no problem with more Māori being taught in schools – in my time it was disgracefully ignored, along with important New Zealand history.

I don’t mind some use of Māori  in media, but i think that some of it is overdone. Good on RNZ for using the native language more, but for me it is sometimes overdone and I switch off.

It is probably near impossible to get the right balance for everyone. Younger people in particular who have had the opportunity to learn some Māori will benefit from it’s wider use. It’s not about me and my history, it’s about the future of New Zealand, of Aotearoa (a name I would be happy to use if it became official).

Bits of Māori speech in Parliament is lost on me but it’s probably no worse than the vast vapid verbiage used there.

I cringe when listening to our God laced dirge of a national anthem, but it is far more tolerable listening to the Māori  version.

We have a unique history which has a strong Māori flavour, and that should be a part of our identity, and it should be something we can be proud of.

Māori can certainly be a harmonious language when at it’s best (it’s use in hakas is not at it’s best). The world won’t end, the sky won’t fall in, and the long white cloud won’t evaporate if we hear some more of it.

We can live in harmony as a multi-lingual society if we try.


Te Tiriti was lucky to survive

An interesting series of tweets from @verslibre (archivist Stefanie) on how the Treaty of Waitangi got into a poor condition.

After te Tiriti finished being signed by September 1840 the nine sheets made their way back one by one to the offices of the government in Okiato, old Russell.

When the government moved to Auckland in 1842 te Tiriti moved too. By 1841 the nine sheets had been put for safekeeping in an especially requisitioned metal trunk. This likely saved them when the offices of government caught fire in 1842 and burned down.

The sheets, along with He Whakaputanga most likely, were saved by a quick-thinking records clerk.

The government records back then were all kept in the office of the Colonial Secretary, the Governor’s right-hand man and the guy who got all the shit done.

When the capital moved to Wellington in 1865 te Tiriti came too with the rest of the records of government.

The period of damage that you refer to occurred some time between the years 1877 and 1908. The documents were kept, rolled up we think, in the basement of the Govt buildings. Which is now the law school on Lambton Quay.

They were discovered, all damaged, in about 1908 by Dr Thomas Hocken, who for reasons I’ve never been able to get to the bottom of was fossicking round down there and luckily knew what he’d found.


The distinctive damaged shape of the Waitangi sheet comes from its having been nibbled by rats or mice. It’s made of parchment, animal skin. You’ll see the other paper sheets are not so nibbled = not as delicious to critters. There’s one other parchment sheet, also nibbled.

Incidentally we recently discovered through DNA testing that the Waitangi parchment is made of goat skin, the Herald sheet from calf skin. I digress.

Fortunately back in 1877 the Govt Print tested their new photolithographic machine on the Treaty sheets, so we know what was on the parts that were nibbled away between 1877 and about 1908.

After that they were taken into the care of the Department of Internal Affairs (that’s what the Colonial Secretary’s office had been renamed to).

They’ve had several repairs, the most recent major one in 1987.

Once the National Archives was instituted in 1957 they came under the care of the Chief Archivist and have been there ever since.

The archivists and conservators who look after Te Tiriti now love it with all our hearts.

Hope this was mildly interesting

Very interesting thanks Stefanie.

Te Ara – Story: Treaty of Waitangi

And what about ‘Aotearoa’?

Following on from A constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand? – what about also having a serious conversation about the name of our country?

I don’t like what seems to be happening, change by stealth. Our country is currently called ‘New Zealand’ and I don’t think it should be referred to as ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ – yet at least.

We should discuss it openly and decide whether we want to continue to be known as New Zealand, or if we should revert to the indigenous version, Aotearoa.

I’d be quite happy for and supportive of a change to Aotearoa, but it should be decided, not imposed by creeping imposition.

‘New Zealand’ isn’t even the first European name for our country.

In 1642 Abel Tasman named it Staten Landt.

In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed it Nova Zeelandia.

Over a century later James Cook anglicised it to New Zealand.

‘Aotearoa’ has also evolved as a name.It originally referred to the North Island but gradually became used for and accepted as a name for the whole country.

The common translation is ‘land of the long white cloud’ but ‘long bright world’ or ‘land of abiding day’ are also possibilities.

It can depend on how the word is broken down.

  • Aotea: a cloudy-white or blue-grey variety of greenstone resembling white clouds
    Aotea: canoe that brought Turi and his people from Hawaiki, eventually arriving in Taranaki where they intermarried with the tangata whenua tribes
  • Roa: long time, length, length of time, delay


  • Ao: world, globe, global
    Ao: bright
    Ao: earth
    Ao: day, daytime – as opposed to night
    Ao: cloud
  • Tea: white, clear, transparent
  • Roa: long time, length, length of time, delay

So there is plenty of scope there.

Roa is also the name for the great spotted kiwi, Apteryx haastii, but ‘land of the transparent kiwi’ is probably not a goer.

I like playing with language but that’s really a diversion.

Regardless of what it was originally intended to mean ‘Aotearoa’ is widely accepted as one name for our country. I’d be quite happy if it became our sole name and ‘New Zealand’ drifted off into a part of our history.

But I expect that woukld be a bit contentious.


Aotearoa New Zealand?

There seems to be increasing use of the term ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’. I don’t have any issue with the concept of the term in general, but it seems to be creeping into official use. I’m not aware of any official designation of it, so it appears that some are trying to arbitrarily impose it without due process.

This was highlighted in a column by Fran O’Sullivan where she quoted the Race Relations Commissioner using it:

“I am Aotearoa New Zealand … te rangi tahu, together we grow” is in fact the slogan Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy chose as the theme for this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

I thought race relations would not try to impose an unofficial term and use due process to reach agreement on any change.

The Human Rights Commission website doesn’t use the term…

About This Site

This website is owned by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. The aim of this website is to promote and educate the New Zealand public on human rights in an accessible and user-friendly format.

…including on it’s Race Relations page but in a link there:

Race Relations Day 2014

Race Relations Day, 21 March,  marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is celebrated around the world. The 2014 theme is “I am Aotearoa New Zealand…te ranga tahi, together we grow.”

Dame Susan is Aotearoa New Zealand from NZ Human Rights on Vimeo.

Belonging and feeling connected is essential for a healthy society. This year’s theme explores the balance between having our own individual identities and the potential of a diverse and united collective.    It expresses that everyone here, no matter what their race or cultural background, belongs, and that there are many ways of being a New Zealander. If we understand and appreciate our differences we can grow together into an Aotearoa/New Zealand that is based on dignity and respect.

Complete the sentence “I am Aotearoa New Zealand because…” and share the different ways we can be New Zealanders.

It seems odd for the Race Relations Commissioner to arbitrarily use the term like this. She is likely to divide more than promote togetherness.

If it hasn’t been properly designated then ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ looks like a slogan being imposed.

Aotearoa is generally stated as the Māori name for New Zealand although there seems to be doubt about it’s origin. It may have at one time just referred to the North Island.

The Constitution Act 1986 makes no mention of ‘Aotearoa’.

Greens use the term in their full name – The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – and Green MPs frequently use the term (although abbreviate as per https://www.facebook.com/nzgreenparty).

A search of National’s website finds no official use of the term (or ‘Aotearoa’), there are only references to organisations who use ‘Aotearoa’ in their name.

Labour don’t prominently promote the term but use it in their Māori Development policy:

Labour acknowledges Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa/New Zealand and accepts that Te Tiriti should be honoured in government, society and the family.

Māori hold a particular status as the indigenous people, tangata whenua of Aotearoa/New Zealand. That status is acknowledged by the United Nations and Labour supports formal recognition of this status.

But their use seems limited, as in their other Māori policy Te Reo Māori they use ‘New Zealand’ alone in English language paragraphs and ‘Aotearoa’ alone in Māori paragraphs.

A search of Labour’s website suggests sparse use:

Maiden speech – Jenny Salesa – New Zealand Labour Party

Oct 24, 2014  My family moved to Aotearoa New Zealand

Labour will facilitate regional Māori economic development agencies

Aug 17, 2014  … will take up the challenge to equip rangatahi with the skills they need to build a 
quality life in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Nanaia Mahuta

Oddly the search summary of this quotes “this country AOTEAROA“…

Merry Christmas – New Zealand Labour Party

Dec 22, 2014  … a very industrious, hard-working family, and we need a government who is 
going to ensure that the ‘real workers’ of this country AOTEAROA, …

…but this links to a video message from Labour leader Andreww Little who doesn’t mention any version of a country name at all.

Something as fundamental to New Zealand as the country name (and flag and anthem) should be dealt with due process, and any change should involve proper consultation and official designation.

Aotearoa (from Wikipedia):

Aotearoa (Māori: [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa], originally used in reference to the North Island of New Zealand, is now the most widely known and accepted Māori name for the entire country.

Translation: The original derivation of Aotearoa is not known for certain. The common translation is “the land of the long white cloud”.


When Māori began incorporating the name Aotearoa into their lore is unknown.

After the adoption of the name New Zealand by Europeans, one name used by Māori to denote the country as a whole was Niu Tireni, a transliteration of New Zealand.

From 1845, George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, spent some years amassing information from Māori regarding their legends and histories. He translated it into English, and in 1855 published a book called Polynesian Mythology And Ancient Traditional History Of The New Zealand Race.

Thus died this Maui we have spoken of; but before he died he had children, and sons were born to him; some of his descendants yet live in Hawaiki, some in Aotearoa (or in these islands); the greater part of his descendants remained in Hawaiki, but a few of them came here to Aotearoa.

In the 19th century, Aotearoa was sometimes used to refer to the North Island only.

An example of that usage appeared in the first issue of Huia Tangata Kotahi, a Māori language newspaper published on 8 February 1893. It contained the dedication on the front page, “He perehi tenei mo nga iwi Maori, katoa, o Aotearoa, mete Waipounamu”, meaning “This is a publication for the Māori tribes of Aotearoa and the South Island.

Regardless of it’s origin and historic usage Aotearoa is accepted as a Māori description applying to the whole of New Zealand now – but ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ seems to have no official designation.