The group of neighbours from around Hurunuiorangi Marae who have started te reo Maori lessons. PHOTO/ELI HILL

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

A group of neighbours and family from the area around Hurunuiorangi Marae in Gladstone have taken the initiative and set up classes to learn to speak te reo Maori.

Organiser of the classes Mina “Queenie” Rowe said she had been talking about starting the group for a long time, but the decision to start was made last week at a neighbourhood support meeting.

“It was suggested to me that we get Paremo Matthews [from Te Hauora Runaga o Wairarapa] in to teach us. I gave her a call and she just about fell over – she was so pleased and happy that people, even at our ages, are still learning.”

The group of nine students, spanning a wide span of ages, had their first lesson on Thursday morning, which Rowe called “the first day of a lot of good things”.

Hosted in a living room on Thursday morning, Matthews took the group through their pepeha [introductions] and came up with a plan on how to run the programme.

The neighbours are planning on hosting the lessons each Thursday and are keen to expand their numbers if they get access to the marae next door.

While many in the group are related, Rob Gladding and wife Barbara live across the road from the marae and hadn’t met many of their neighbours before.

“I started learning te reo 30 odd years ago, but it never worked out,” Rob said.

“There’s a lot of reasons I’m doing this – to learn te reo, to meet my neighbours, and the property we’ve got has an old sycamore tree that belonged with the old church. We feel we’re guardians for that.”

Joe Ratapu said he and his wife had started learning last year but didn’t finish because they got sick.

“That’s why we’re here because we’re trying to finish it off.”

Mina’s son Ivan Rowe said he was learning because his two children spoke Maori.

While Frances Reiri-Smith could speak enough te reo to get by she said she occasionally got things in the wrong places.

Teacher Paremo Matthews said she was thrilled the group were looking to rediscover their language.

“This was the generation that lost out. The generation where they weren’t allowed to speak their language. When I first came here 40 odd years ago nobody spoke Maori.

“There was a prophecy that their tipuna [ancestors] made that the language would be lost in Wairarapa but it would return – it would return through their children.”

Matthews said she had mixed emotions about the teaching.

“For me it’s sad that we do this, because of what they had to go through, but I’m happy because they want to learn. And because they take care of their marae and the mana of their marae rests on them.”