Could iwi radio be the new marae?

NZRTS students learning waiata. Photo: Samantha-Jane Harding.
NZRTS students learning waiata. Photo: Samantha-Jane Harding.

The traditional Maori calling (or ‘Karanga’) could be heard echoing through the grounds of Edge Water College on Monday 25 March as a group from the New Zealand Radio Training School (NZRTS) embarked on an overnight stay at Te Tahawai marae.

Learning and experiencing the traditional Maori culture is now part of the one year diploma course at NZRTS.

NZRTS falls under the management of Whitireia, a Government-owned and funded tertiary institute of technology known for its culturally diverse student body. Whitireia has provided radio training through a contract with Te Mangai Paho (TMP).

TMP is a crown entity established to make funding available to the national network of Maori radio stations and for the production and broadcast of Maori language television programmes, radio programmes and music recordings. With Maori language declining rapidly in New Zealand, their aim and purpose is significant and important: revitalisation and maintenance of Maori language and culture.

The ongoing development of iwi radio stations around the country means there is a growing demand for Maori and fluent speakers of Te Reo to work within these stations. This growth supports TMP’s goals for the protection of Maori language and culture.

The contract between Whitireia and TMP expired in December 2014 and NZRTS awaits the renewal or otherwise so that training can be ongoing, allowing them to continue paving the way for students wanting to learn the skills needed for work in iwi radio.

Cultural advisor for NZRTS, Raniera Winikerei, says: “The main focus of the marae stay for students is to break the Maori stereotype that is often seen on the streets and to give students a first hand taste of traditional Maori customs and beliefs. Customs and beliefs that are quickly overshadowed by media and the news in today’s society.”

A marae is a meeting-house, a place of learning, discipline, discussion and storytelling. It is a place where important traditions, customs and knowledge is passed on. However, results from Statistics New Zealand’s first survey of Maori well-being, Te Kupenga 2013, shows that the passing on of this vital cultural information is declining, with many Maori not being able to have the access they would like to their ancestral marae.

The steady growth of iwi radio around the country could see these stations bridge this gap by enabling Maori stories, knowledge and culture to be digitally passed on to those who don’t have access to their marae.

Results from Te Kupenga 2013, Statistics New Zealand’s first survey of Maori well-being, shows that Maori would like to be more involved with their marae. Sixty per cent of Maori who visited their ancestral marae in the last 12-months would have liked to visit more, and of the 46 per cent that hadn’t been in the last year, 55 per cent would also have liked to visit more.

Those who regularly visit their marae are more likely to be engaged in other aspects of Maori culture, according to households’ statistics manager Diane Ramsay for Te Kupenga, 2013. Ms Ramsay supports the connection to a marae as being an important aspect of Maori culture and identity.

Factors such as cost, distance and transport are the main barriers for those wanting to be more involved, followed closely by not enough time. But iwi radio has the ability to reach these people who don’t have the marae access they would like. The airwaves aren’t restricted by location or time like people are, therefore supporting the vision of TMP.

NZRTS programme manager Larry Summerville acknowledges the exciting potential that radio has with regards to the preservation of Maori culture and language, stating, “Iwi radio can be the disseminate of individual iwi events and pass on the sense of being. This is why I believe iwi radio is evolving as more bilingual in its approach. It needs to be more inclusive, rather than exclusive, of those who are yet to find their voice with Te Reo.”

The marae that the NZRTS students visited – Te Tahawai marae – is a pan-tribal urban marae set in East Auckland’s Pakuranga, and is open to people of all cultures.

It’s the goal of NZRTS to give their students as many opportunities as possible. The partnership between Whitireia and TMP, with the support from Te Tahawai marae, means the future is bright for the world of iwi radio.

Gallery: Te Tahawai Marae welcomes NZRTS students

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