As It Happens

New Zealand TV host defends use of Maori words in English broadcasts

Some New Zealanders are fuming after the country's journalists have started inserting Indigenous Maori words into their broadcasts.
New Zealand broadcaster Kanoa Lloyd, co-host of Newshub's The Project, responded to viewers this week who were angry that she was occasionally using Māori words in her English-language broadcasts. (Newshub/YouTube)

Story transcript

Reporters in New Zealand are getting hate mail for occasionally using Maori words in their broadcasts — despite it being one of the country's official languages.

More often on radio and TV broadcasts in New Zealand, you'll hear the news in English, along with snippets of Te Reo — the Indigenous Maori language — as part of an effort to preserve it. 

But many New Zealand listeners don't seem to share that view. Angry emails have poured into broadcasters' inboxes, complaining that hearing Maori words makes them feel excluded.

The complaints prompted Kanoa Lloyd, a New Zealand host for Newshub, to respond with an impassioned video rebuttal, in which she says, "The change has already happened. The Earth isn't flat, climate change is real, the treaty was signed, we're speaking Maori!"

Lloyd, who is of Maori descent, first started to use Te Reo words like Aotearoa — the Maori name for New Zealand — in her weather reports a couple years ago. That's when the angry emails started. Here's part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

You had apparently hundreds of complaints, a half-dozen or so a day, from people who were upset with you using Maori words. So what are people so upset about?

I think that when people don't understand something, their first reaction is fear. And I can totally relate to that fear. I'm not a fluent Maori speaker. And I [know] that feeling when your stomach falls to the bottom of your knees and you think "Oh no, am I going to get this right?"

They say, 'This is gibberish. Stick to your own channels. You've got your own Maori TV and radio.- Kanoa  Lloyd, TV broadcaster

But for some people, instead of taking that and going, "OK, how can I do this better," it turns into anger and it turns into saying, "Don't speak anything other than English — no one knows what you're talking about."

They say, "This is gibberish." They say, "Stick to your own channels. You've got your own Maori TV and radio."

So it turns from just being about the language to almost saying to me, "I don't want to see you in my English-speaking world."

There was an interview this week with Don Brash, former leader of the Conservative National Party in New Zealand. [He said using the Maori language leaves people confused, and he shouldn't be forced to listen to it, or have to understand it.] How do you respond to what he had to say?

I feel sorry for him. He needs to join up with the Flat Earth Society and go hang out with the few remaining climate change deniers in the world. I think it's a really outdated way of thinking.

We have this concept in Maoridom called "whanaungatanga," where you have a family connection with people and you respect your elders. And Don Brash is, in many ways, an elder of this New Zealand community. And he's very smart when it comes to things like economics, so he has the capacity to understand the value of this language. But he chooses not to.

He's put the stake in the ground and he's sticking to it.

Don Brash says English-speakers in New Zealand are "utterly bamboozled" by trend of using occasional Māori words during TV and Radio broadcasts. 0:34

As a Maori broadcaster how much racism do you encounter?

I would say that the negative feedback is in the minority. But for whatever reason — I don't know if it's the human condition or whatever — it's those negative things that really stick in your head.

You come home at the end of the day, you take your shoes off and those [negative messages] are the ones that are flying around and around.

But what has happened this week ... it is absolutely incredible the number of people who come forward to say you're right, I support you, I feel the same way.

As I listen to you talk, I realize that I'm not even pronouncing the word Maori correctly. Just to end this interview, how does one say goodbye in Maori?

You could say ka kite ano. that means "I will see you again."

Ka kite ano. And thank you so much for speaking to us.

This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Kanoa Lloyd.


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