Auckland Transport called on to fast track te reo Maori on buses, ferries and trains
Auckland Transport (AT) is being called on to make its buses, ferries and trains bilingual with te reo Maori signs.
Independent Maori Statutory Board (IMSB) chairman David Taipari said AT should fast track its implementation of te reo Maori signage on public transport and to set a date for it to be fully bilingual.
IMSB, which was formed by Auckland Council in 2010 to promote Maori issues in Auckland, had been advocating for bilingual signage since 2011.
At an Auckland Council meeting last week Taipari said he was concerned bilingual signage had been pushed back and, while AT had agreed to develop a te reo framework, nothing further had been done.
"Bilingual signage is a demonstration of respect in regards to Maori culture," Taipari said.
"This is a missing piece of infrastructure needed to support the growth of Maori tourism and entertainment."
A New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report done for IMSB estimated the international tourism value of a visible Maori identity in Auckland would be more than $600 million per year, he said.
Bilingual signage on public transport had been used overseas in Ireland, Spain, South Africa and Wales, Taipari said.
Galway in Ireland used its Gaelic language as a marketing tool to promote the city as a European Capital of Culture, Taipari said.
Professor Tania Ka'ai, director of Te Ipukarea, the National Maori Language Institute at AUT University, said it was a strong initiative that would normalise te reo Maori in Auckland.
"It will demonstrate to te reo Maori language learners that there are places in the community where the Maori language can be seen and heard," Ka'ai said.
Otaki was the first New Zealand town to become bilingual, Rotorua was the first city to become bilingual, so putting te reo on buses and trains would send a strong signal that Auckland was a city that respected Maori, Ka'ai said.
AT spokesperson James Ireland said it was in the early stages of developing a programme to look at te reo and bilingual signage across its network.
There were no details of what the signage would consist of yet, Ireland said.
The programme followed on from AT winning an award at Te Wiki o te reo Maori Language Week for the concept of its network working as a canvas to revitalise te reo, Ireland said.
A plan would go to its board of directors in September.
On social media site Neighbourly.co.nz there was a mixed consensus, but generally people were for the addition.
Pt England resident Roxanne Adams said te reo should be expressed as much as possible.
St Johns resident Karen Cleary said she liked hearing it and thought it would be great to have on public transport, as long as it was spoken well.
Glendowie resident Sebastian Bialek said it would be very attractive to people visiting Auckland.
Mt Wellington resident Dorothy Lamour said te reo made New Zealand unique.
"We shouldn't have to debate whether to use te reo or not," Lamour said.