Te Ao Māori

Local Democracy Reporting

Councillor 'disheartened' by disagreement over te reo Māori use

Thu, May 25
Mauao constituency councillor Matemoana McDonald said there “will always a point of difference" between Māori and English translations.

The te reo phrase 'te ara poutama' has caused division amongst councillors at a Bay of Plenty Regional Council meeting.

The councillors argued whether an English translation of the phrase should be used in the regional council’s strategic direction document during the annual plan deliberations today.

One councillor said she was “disheartened” the Māori translation was being “picked at” as it had been prepared by an expert in te reo Māori.

The document outlines the council’s vision, values and the community outcomes it is seeking, in both English and Māori.

Councillor Jane Nees questioned why the outcome Te Ara Poutama, meaning pathway to excellence, did not have a direct English translation in the document like the other four outcomes.

“Te ara poutama, to our English speakers that does not mean anything.

“I think it’s quite appropriate that we have an approximation for the English version of te ara poutama,” she said.

Councillor Janes Nees wanted an English version of the phrase te ara poutama included in the council's strategic direction.

Regional council general manager, strategy and science Namouta Poutasi, who was presenting the document, said if councillors wanted the translation the staff were open to their direction.

“Often it does become difficult when you’re translating something to get the full essence of what’s been proposed, but certainly if that’s the direction, we will make that change.”

Poutasi said the strategic direction document was the culmination of four workshops and it was fundamental to the development of the long-term plan.

Councillor Ron Scott said if the council had spent “thousands on translations” then they may as well translate each language into the alternative.

“I would be very keen to have the te reo part translated to English to help understanding of our ratepayers.”

Councillor Te Taru White said if they wanted the interpretation of Māori into English then they might end up with another volume.

He suggested a glossary as “an appropriate way to look at that particular translation”.

“Te ara poutama - the stairways to excellence comes with all sorts of stories around the stairways to the heavens and the heavens back to us. It’s all a very integrated holistic meaning,” he said.

“Māori translations are there to really give holistic depth to what we do, in my view. Some added quality and value, it’s not there to disrupt the directions we want to head in.”

Councillor Te Taru White said the Māori version added "holistic depth" to the document.

Councillor Matemoana McDonald said the translator they used was an expert in te reo Māori.

“There will always be a point of difference in the translations when you’re looking from the perspective of Māori … and non-Māori.

“Have faith in the translator’s words and what we are trying to achieve.”

Councillor Andrew von Dadelszen suggested leaving te ara poutama as it was in the document but adding a footnote with the English translation.

“When you look at the strategic direction and vision having te reo and then the English version, we’ve done that for a long time and I think that’s appropriate.

“We want to take our community with us, that’s the key thing, so we don’t want to frighten people by not understanding.”

Scott said an “issue” that “worried him a little bit” was if there was a difference between the versions.

“If there’s a difference of understanding, well we’ve gone all the way back to 1840 haven’t we?

“We’ve created exactly the problem that is still causing grief a century and a half later, so we have to be very careful about what is the document that we are relying on and what is the meaning of any translations.”

Councillor Ron Scott said he was "very keen" to have the Māori translated into English to help ratepayers' understanding.

McDonald responded: “We had agreed that we will do the translations for this document and we have.

“Now I’m kind of disheartened that we’re starting to pick at the translation.”

She said while the Māori translation was not a “total transliteration” it was “in the spirit” of the language and was what the council was trying to achieve through the document.

Nees, who was chairing the meeting, asked councillors to indicate whether an English translation of te ara poutama should be added.

Five councillors were for the translation and five were against.

Councillor Paula Thompson suggested adding the English translation so the council could “tick off” the document and “move on”.

White said the English translation was pathway to excellence. He said if people had “issues” with particular descriptors in the reo, the council should have a process for it.

“If somebody has got a question we should be able to answer it. It alleviates the need for going through the whole damn document and explaining every damn word in detail.”

The council voted to add the wording 'pathway to excellence' to the te ara poutama outcome and endorsed the strategic direction.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

By Alisha Evans, Local Democracy Reporter


More Stories