Maori culture still 'hidden' in south - kaumatua

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
Michael Skerrett
The Southland Times
MICHAEL SKERRETT

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Southland has the highest proportion of Maori in the South Island but the culture remains largely hidden.

Ngai Tahu kaumatua Michael Skerrett said the region's Maori culture needed to be entwined into Southland's culture.

A report released by the Royal Society of New Zealand says the Maori population is the highest per capita in Southland than anywhere else in the South Island.

Between the 2006 census and the 2013 census the Maori population grew 11.4 per cent in Southland, taking the number of Maori in the region to 11,610.

National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis fellow Tahu Kukutai said the figures should not come as a surprise to residents of the south with the population of Maori continually growing in Southland.

She worked on the Royal Society report "Our Futures: Te Pae Tawhiti" and said the figures in Southland mirrored the rich Maori history of the area. "The [Maori] population in the South Island is growing all the time."

Skerrett is hopeful the culture and language can be brought to life in the city. More could always be done, like signs with Maori words.

"There's not much evidence when you look around town as a cultural landscape at all."

Before colonisation the area would have been teeming with Maori culture and practices and it was a shame that had been lost, he said. It was about blending and not separating the two cultures.

"There's quite a lot going on in schools, but anything is great."

Te Wharekura o Arowhenua principal Arni Wainui said youth was where the future lay and the culture had to be nurtured.

"We have got to get the relationship going amongst the kids."

Wainui said some Maori youngsters did not want to identify with the culture because of occasional bad publicity, but to ensure the culture was more ingrained, that stereotype had to change.

"The biggest thing is for the kids to know it's OK to be Maori, it's cool to be Maori."

The city council could do more to foster the culture in the city and when it had gone on overseas jaunts to share cultures they had never asked the school if it would like to fundraise to send some students to perform, she said.

Invercargill City Council community development manager Mary Napper and did not want to discuss the council's processes for community development or Maori development in the city.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said his council was beginning initiatives to bring te reo into everyday conversation.

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That included council staff learning new Maori words each week and more signs being displayed in te reo.

- The Southland Times

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