Tamariki successful putting the Ō in Ōmokoroa

Room 10 at Ōmokoroa Point School have convinced a council to update its signage. LDR Photo / Supplied

A class of Ōmokoroa school children have triumphed in their mahi to recognise the mana of a macron.

Room 10 at Ōmokoroa Point School presented to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council last month asking for council signage to be updated to include the macron above the first O in Ōmokoroa because it is the correct spelling.

The class project titled 'Operation Tohutō (macron)' started in term two when the class members were writing thank you letters and realised they had been spelling Ōmokoroa incorrectly.

When presenting their case to council the pupils stressed the importance of the macron by explaining words can mean different things without one and that a macron tells people how to pronounce words correctly.

At a meeting last week, councillors voted unanimously to add the macron to all of the town's signage.

Local Democracy Reporting visited the class after the meeting, which they watched live via the council's YouTube channel.

Room 10 teacher Deirdre Duggan said cheers of "Yay!" rung out across the class once they realised the councillors had approved their request.

Student Johan Heyns, 11, said it felt "pretty good" that Operation Tohutō had been successful.

"Now people can spell it [Ōmokoroa] right and they can learn from their mistakes."

Johan knew how important it was to spell and pronounce names correctly, as his name was often mispronounced as Johan with a J rather than a Y sound.

"People might take offence to it, if you spell their name wrong," he said.

Fellow classmate Vivienne Apanui, 10, said the decision was "quite astonishing" because she was expecting the council to "think about it and think about it" rather than act so quickly.

Every time the two students see signs without the macron now, they think it looks "a bit weird" and want to correct it.

Duggan said she was "really impressed" with the year 5 and 6 students' tenacity because at first, they didn't realise that official processes could take time.

"It has to be changed officially and it's part of council process.

"It's something that the kids were really quite determined and quite passionate about actually getting changed.

"We talk about kia tika … doing the right thing. And this is all part of that because it's all about respecting people's and places' names," Duggan said.

The class was supported by local Māori language specialist Terania Ormsby-Teki and Pirirakau hapū during their journey to recognise the history and cultural significance of Ōmokoroa.

As part of the project, the children have created videos about the importance of the macron and instructions on how to add it when using devices.

Duggan said they planned on sharing these resources with the rest of the school and wider community once they were complete.

The class also wanted to get local businesses on board to change their signage to reflect the tohutō.

"Now it's been officially changed by the council, we're looking for support from the local community. So, the kids will be working on getting our message out to them.

"Now it's just spreading the word. Spreading the love, getting them [the signs] changed."

Mayor praises children's fantastic mahi

After Room 10s visit to council, mayor Garry Webber said in a statement: "As a community we need more advocates like these rangatahi.

"They're doing a fantastic job of showing their community how to use and respect the reo.

"We really appreciate their mahi [work] and we know they'll be carefully correcting the spelling of Ōmokoroa wherever they see it without it's tohutō."

Webber plans to visit Ōmokoroa Point School next week to talk about governance and social change.

Room 10 also asked council to review its other signage around the Western Bay of Plenty and any that have a legal name with a tohutō be updated.

Their final request was for council to design a new billboard at the entrance of Ōmokoroa to include the tohutō.

Councillors approved both requests in last week's meeting and invited the students of Room 10 to help design the sign.

Council said it included a tohutō for all new communications that include Ōmokoroa following discussion with Pirirakāu hapū in 2020.

Since then, all new signs and publications have included a tohutō on Ōmokoroa.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting