Language test has mixed result among public figures

Manawatu's mayor still struggles to remember what Manawatu means, and Horowhenua's mayor won't even try.

As part of Maori Language Week, the Manawatu Standard went to the region's most prominent public representatives and gave them a five-minute, 10-question, te reo Maori pop quiz.

Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy initially agreed to take part but, after the first question was read out, he said that Maori language was too important to be made into a game.

He had a million other things to do, he said, before hanging up.

In contrast, both of Palmerston North's civic leaders knocked the test out of the park.

Apart from a short stumble because of the reporter's pronunciation of the word taonga, Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway was unflinching in rattling off 10 correct answers.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor was even quicker and if a bonus point were available, he would have received one for remembering both the Maori name for Palmerston North - Papaioea - and its transliterated Maori name - Pamutana.

Mr Naylor said an understanding of Maori language was important for every New Zealander. "I love the way there is some Maori language creeping into the language New Zealanders speak," he said. "Our language is becoming a hybrid - words like whanau and kai, they have their own meanings for New Zealanders now and that's neat."

Questions five and 10 changed depending on the person's area of representation, and those from the districts around Palmerston North struggled with the at-times obscure naming of their district.

Manawatu Mayor Margaret Kouvelis was unaware Feilding was also known by a Maori name - Aorangi - and she stumbled over the meaning of the word Manawatu.

Mrs Kouvelis knew the story of the warrior Haunui and how he marvelled at the energy of the river, but could not connect that with the meaning "heart stood still".

She was ashamed of her score because it was crucial for those in public office to have at least a basic understanding of te reo, she said.

"I think Maori language is marvellous and it's great that our children are way ahead of us, Mrs Kouvelis said.

"The whole of New Zealand, we should be bilingual. For me, it's a matter of finding time, but I do attempt it and I will go out there and try to improve."

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie said that although council staff agreed that the district's name meant "the day of striding out", there was still a lot of debate to be had over that.

Mr McKelvie scored a solid 7/10 and said Maori Language Week was something he would always fully support.

"It's about trying to protect a language. I have great difficulty learning te reo - I'm on my third course or so - but I think it's really important to do." The most common mistake in the quiz was the confusion of haere ra, meaning farewell, with haere mai, welcome.

One of those to make the mistake was Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis.

Mr Ellis moved to New Zealand from England 20 years ago and, although he tried hard, a lot of the Maori language still eluded him, he said. He was pleased to not be last, as he had done a similar quiz last year and got just 1/10.


Iain Lees-Galloway - 10/10

Margaret Kouvelis - 2/10

Rolly Ellis - 3/10

Brendan Duffy - Refused to answer

Ian McKelvie - 7/10

Jono Naylor - 10/10

Manawatu Standard