By Roger Childs
Some years ago I was present at a ceremony at the Marines Memorial in Queen Elizabeth Park.
An elderly Native American Marine had come from half a world away, to honour his comrades who had lived and trained in New Zealand during World War Two.
There was a Maori welcome, and the visitor stood patiently and respectfully as two local iwi leaders spoke and joked in Te Reo for about 20 minutes.
There was no translation.
Finally one of them welcomed the former Marine in English.
Who showed cultural respect?
The furore over Te Reo on RNZ
The Otago Daily Times (ODT) recently published an opinion piece that criticised the excessive use of untranslated Te Reo on the main national programme.
Radio New Zealand – the New Zealand equivalent of the BBC – is supposed to be free of political meddling. Yet now it has been hijacked, and its hapless staff obliged to dispense their daily dose of te reo. There were just a few words to begin with. Then longer sentences which have kept on growing until the keener young grovellers now begin and end their spiels with expansive swatches of a lingo understood by only a minuscule proportion of their audience. Dave Witherow, Otago Daily Times, 3 December 2017
Don Brash has also been concerned, and agreed to be interviewed by Kim Hill on Saturday December 2.
Brash referred to listening to the RNZ News at 6.00 in the morning and hearing Guyon Espinar giving a few sentences in Te Reo without any translation. Brash made the point that close on 100% of those listening wouldn’t have a clue what the announcer was saying.
Hill had clearly decided in advance that this interview would be about batting for her colleagues and discrediting her guest. Her position seemed to be I’m right, he’s wrong and I’m going to prove it.
Kim loses the plot
Kim Hill’s programme on Saturday morning has a big following, and most people find the sessions interesting, enlightening and entertaining. This is not quick sound bite stuff, as the interviews usually go on for 20-30 minutes or longer.
Hill is usually measured in her approach, asks intelligent questions and frequently lets her guests speak at length, often without interruption.
However, this courtesy was not extended to Brash, and Hill was on the offensive from the start.
She seemed intent on getting admissions of anti-Maori prejudice from her guest, and when she found the agenda she had planned was going awry, she resorted to the classic tactics of an interviewer in trouble:
- not allowing the interviewee to finish his answers
- loudly interrupting
- throwing in irrelevant questions
- dredging up quotes from way back when.
Hill was clearly not going to concede anything, and many of her comments were insulting, demeaning and sarcastic.
Maori culture, one of many in NZ
One of Hill’s main objectives seems to be to wring confessions out of her guest eg that he was a racist. She even suggested at one point that he was a separatist!
Brash did state that he
- had no problem with people learning Te Reo
- acknowledged that he used some Te Reo words eg whanau
- was OK with occasional Maori words on radio like Morena
- felt that the 21 taxpayer funded radio stations and Maori TV provided plenty of encouragement for Maori culture
- did not object to Te Reo being an option in schools.
However, he was concerned that in kindergartens and pre-schools, children had no choice. He was also worried that if kids are learning Te Reo at higher levels of education, they might be missing out on something else which is more useful.
He also made the point that we have many cultural threads in New Zealand, but only Maori culture gets significant taxpayer support.
Basically Kim Hill didn’t, and got angry and frustrated when the interview didn’t go the way she wanted it to.
She scoffed at Don Brash’s comments on New Zealand’s early history, but then showed her lack of knowledge on what the Treaty, (the one signed in 1840), actually stated.
Obviously she wasn’t expecting debate on the Treaty and clearly hadn’t swotted it up.
Meanwhile Brash kept his cool, and showed the dignity and respect that was not coming the other way. Hill often referred to her guest with pointed over-emphasis, as Dr Brash. (It might have been better if Don had said early on Just call me Don.)
Furthermore, she often wouldn’t let the good doctor finish his answers, frequently told him what he should know eg the detail of RNZ Charter, and once interjected with No, no, no, no!!!!!!!!!!!
Obviously there are many people in the country who disagree with Dave Witherow’s and Don Brash’s views on Te Reo on national radio, however I’m sure readers will know of folk who are mystified and opposed to the approach RNZ is taking.
If Kim Hill’s abrasive interview can be seen as a debate, Don Brash won hands down.