Voice artist refuses to say Waimate the 'white way'

Dave Ward took to Twitter to express his frustration, and said he wouldn't lend his voice to 'low...
Dave Ward took to Twitter to express his frustration, and said he wouldn't lend his voice to 'low level racism'. Photo: ODT files

A voice artist for advertising agency NZME has refused to voice a client's script after they requested that the place name, Waimate, be pronounced the 'white way'.

Dave Ward took to Twitter to express his frustration, and said he wouldn't lend his voice to 'low level racism'.

Mr Ward said his initial thoughts towards the request was shock.

"I was surprised, really surprised and also a bit sad really. As soon as I saw it I thought well that's just not happening.

"I said, you can tell the client from me that if they want it voiced incorrectly then they're going to have to find someone else because I'm just not prepared to do it.

"As I said in my tweet, low level racism is still racism."

He said the correct pronunciation of names was about respect.

"It's about getting people's names correct and making sure people are represented properly."

Criticism that mispronunciation was lazy, not racist, was wrong, he said.

"I think it's both. I don't understand why not being able to pronounce someone's name gives you a right to deliberately do it and not actually check.

"If I hear the commentators of a certain generation say Waikato or Taranaki or TJ Perenara said incorrectly it just does my head.

"You've got guys like me that want to do it properly that are the next generation down and we don't actually get a fair go and we don't actually get an opportunity to because these guys are there even though they're doing it wrong."

Louisa Tipene Opetaia works in the media industry and had heard similar stories about broadcasters having to mis-pronounce words on purpose.

Mrs Tipene Opetaia backs Mr Ward's stance.

"I was really encouraged that he actually put his foot down and refused to read the script as it was written."

People who worked in media sales and advertising needed to take more responsbility, she said.

"Yes, of course the client is the one who's paying the money - but I just feel if we brought it up to them and they realised that it's actually incorrect.

"Maybe we could make a difference in the way they think as well."

She had read comments from Pakeha who would wanted to hear Maori words pronounced properly.

She said this sent a clear message to advertisers.

"Don't understimate your audience and the fact that they're open to hearing things pronounced correctly so that they know how it's supposed to sound."

Teresa McGregor is from the Maori Media Network and works to produce advertisements for Maori radio clients.

The organisation works only with licensed translators to ensure quality in terms of the scripts it provides clients.

Ms McGregor said she didn't buy the idea audiences would prefer hearing mispronounced place names.

"I think that is a cop-out really - it's an uneducated position - attitudes are changing.

"Nowadays most businesses would want to act with integrity and ensure what they're doing is correct and is good quality and that should apply to te reo Maori."

Mainstream media has made improvements in recent years, Ms McGregor said.

"I think there are some really positive efforts being made to get the reo correct - but I still think we've got a way to go."

NZME is yet to respond to calls from RNZ.