Job ads in Maori add diversity, cost

Seeking a mahi, or job, with the Horowhenua District Council? This year job-seekers can apply for positions in te reo Maori.

In a move that is thought to be a first for local government in New Zealand, the council's new employment application form is available in both English and Maori.

Council human resources manager Meredith Blackler said she was unaware of any other council, or central government department, that offered such an option.

Mrs Blackler said the initiative was designed to attract qualified Maori job applicants, as well as to encourage diversity and cultural respect.

"We want to attract talented employees and have a diverse workforce that enables us to react and strategically plan in innovative ways outside the traditional local government box," she said.

But the introduction of te reo into council business will not stop at employment applications.

Horowhenua Residents and Ratepayers Association President Dave Thompson said he was concerned about how much the service would cost and whether it was justified.

"Council needs to take into account the expense - it's ratepayers' money that they're spending."

The cost of producing the forms and translating them is yet to be revealed by the council, and a council spokesman was unable to say yesterday if there had been demand for te reo application forms.

Mrs Blackler said the council would not stop at employment applications and had plans to broaden its bilingual offerings to other official documents.

"We're only a small council and do not have the resources to translate entire annual plans or long-term plans, but in such large documents we can at least look at translating the key messages."

The new approach was a way to recognise te reo as an official language of New Zealand.

"Te reo Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand and we should be doing our best to acknowledge that."

Mrs Blackler said the council already offered "whanau interviews" to job candidates and in the future it hoped to provide all staff with opportunities to learn te reo Maori, in addition to cultural awareness training.

The 2013 census found 21.6 per cent of Horowhenua's population identified as Maori. The national figure is 14.1 per cent.

Manawatu Standard