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Citizenship ceremonies in Invercargill are set to take place at marae, as part of the Māori Language Strategy Plan the Invercargill City Council approved this week.
The plan was presented to councillors by governance operational administrator Merania Tupara and leisure and recreation general manager Steve Gibling, and provided information about what the council could do to fulfil its partnership obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and the Māori Language Act 2016, and support the revitalisation of te reo Māori.
Some of the recommendations are including tikanga in formal events; continuing to incorporate te reo Māori and related graphic design into the council’s formal communications; in-house practice sessions, initially to be run by staff, for pronunciation, waiata, karakia and pepeha; and developing bilingual signage for council facilities.
The plan also aims to move the citizenship ceremonies usually held at the Civic Theatre to the local marae.
Mr Gibling talked about how council staff had had the idea for the strategy.
"Back in 2020 we had a staff forum and a couple of staff got together and thought we didn’t really reflect the moves that the organisation needed to make in terms of our partnership with Māori, so they got together and started identifying what were the causes and what were some of the opportunities, and that’s how we’ve come to this strategy today," he said.
Mana whenua appointees Pania Coote, of Te Rūnanga o Awarua, and Evelyn Cook, of Waihōpai Rūnaka, were both in support of the plan.
Ms Coote said she wished for performance and development reviews and job descriptions to be linked into the plan.
"I just think it’s amazing that we’re on this journey, and that we’ve got staff that are driving it," she said.
Ms Cook began by thanking staff for driving the initiative.
"Learning te reo is a journey. It’s a journey for everybody whether they start at 1 or whether they start at 36 like me, and you never stop learning," she said.
Cr Alex Crackett also spoke in support of the plan, saying, "this is one of New Zealand’s national languages and it’s a lost language because of wrongs of the past, and it is absolutely up to us and thank you for showing leadership on this and making it so".
Regarding Ms Coote’s statements on job descriptions and professional development, deputy mayor Nobby Clarke asked if it would be a requirement for all staff to learn te reo.
"I’ve been involved with an NGO where we had about 18 months of this, and it was really positive, but we didn’t force it. We let people come forward that had a desire," he said.
"My experience is that compulsion doesn’t work and as people get excited about it, and some will, that will encourage others to get excited as well."
Mr Gibling clarified that there would be an individual approach to encouraging te reo.
"This is an individual journey based on individual capability and experience and confidence."
The motion to adopt the plan passed unanimously.