National | Education

Manukau City a melting pot of reo dialects

Manukau City has the largest Māori population in Aotearoa, so what is the state of the Māori language in the region?

South Auckland is a melting pot of tribes, people and languages.

“There is a distinct urban dialect spoken here,” says Tūnuiarangi McLean of Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Maniapoto.

“Although some of us maintain the dialects of our tribes, contemporary Māori is spoken by the majority.”

Te Ahu o Te Reo research of South Auckland two years ago highlighted that the integration of Māori families to the city from their tribal areas has affected the state of te reo.

“This urban shift has perhaps contributed to the decline in the reo being spoken in homes,” says researcher Eru Morgan.

“Families living separated and not in communities.  Because of this separation there's been a loss of customary knowledge.”

Over 40,000 Māori live in Manukau, the majority of whom are from the tribes of Ngāpuhi, followed by Waikato.

However that is not a reflection of the prominent tribal dialect spoken in the area.

“The language learnt at school is the most prominent, beside tribal dialects,” says Akeni Tai Tin of Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Hāmoa.

“In most instances they will inherit the dialects set out by the management of those schools.  I adhere to the words of my elder Hemi Mokana, that speaking Māori is the most important thing.”

“Times have changed,” says Waikato elder Jeff Haimona-Tukua.

“I do hear different dialects being spoken, whether that be from Ngāpuhi, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou or others.  However, that is better than not speaking Māori at all.”

McLean says although teachers are speaking and teaching their dialects to students regardless of their tribal affiliations, they do encourage them to learn their own dialects.