Te reo 'very' highly valued by progressive company

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014
Waikato Times

Niketi Toataua presents is pepeha for Maori Language Week.

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Walk around the Opus offices that pierce Hamilton's skyline for any length of time and you are certain to hear te reo Maori being spoken.

That's thanks in large part to Niketi Toataua, of Ngati Hikairo and Ngati Paretekawa blood, who has been a member of infrastructure consultant Opus since 2006 when the company headhunted him for its newest division, Maori Business Services.

Eight years on, he has another team member, Sam Toka, and the two have become a vital part of the culture of Opus' team.

They do everything from running training courses for Opus staff and clients on Maori tikanga, or culture and tradition, to facilitating meetings between Opus clients and local iwi, to organising ceremonies, to translating korero for the bosses.

"I hate to brag about it but we're the best in the business," he says.

Toataua says the relationships both culture and language give him are invaluable when it comes to brokering deals, and making sure communication is clear between both parties.

"Our values as Maori - connected, fluent speakers, also well-known throughout the Maori networks - they see our value to the company as being very, very high," he says.

That is reflected in the pay rate, which Toataua is not keen to divulge, but for a fluent speaker of all dialects is higher than most people with degrees would get.

Toataua says the company has changed since he came on board.

"This whole company here is quite diverse . . . it sort of stems on Sam and I," he says.

"No matter where they [staff] are going to go to they ask ‘will there be an impact on us [Opus] doing anything?'

"A company culture with the right values is the most powerful thing you can have."

Toataua says Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori is another excuse to bring the language into the office.

The ex-Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Maori Development) worker makes sure there are plenty of resources from the government provider to hand around the office, covering everything from basic te reo words, to Maori protocol.

But the use of te reo goes far beyond just one week a year in the Opus offices.

Each month the consultancy runs a theme, and Toataua says his team brings "whatever the theme is into the language".

"We even covered the Olympic Games one year," he says.

"It doesn't really give us time to focus on te reo week."

While Toataua is busy advocating the use of te reo throughout the year, he says one week of highlighting it to the public is great.

"I'll take it," he says.

"If we were to do more [than one week], I'm not sure whether we could actually stretch past the basics. Everybody's learning capacity is different."

Regardless, the point of speaking te reo is more important that just keeping a language alive, Toataua says.

It's about keeping a culture alive too.

That's why he is a passionate advocate of any native language being used in the workplace.

"I teach my people here, if you have a language, use it."

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- Waikato Times

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