Whakatau 2023 | Te Reo Māori

Maurice Williamson complains Te Reo posters are ‘objectionable’

Veteran politician Maurice Williamson has made a complaint at Auckland Council over staff putting up posters in communal areas which promote “decolonisation” actions for non-Māori Kiwis – including the correct use of te reo and understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Staff kitchens inside Auckland Council’s Albert St headquarters have been deemed “politically neutral” after Williamson repeatedly took down Te Reo posters and then complained to officials.

Williamson is a former National cabinet minister who is now a Howick ward councillor.

“I have torn several iterations down but they keep being put straight back up again,” Williamson wrote in an email to council management in June.

Williamson also asked the council to “find out who was doing it”, suggesting ratepayer money was being wasted on making the posters.

“They’re using council colour printing facilities at the ratepayers’ expense,” he wrote.

Shared kitchen

The poster problem arose when two examples went up on the wall in the common kitchen on Level 26 – the floor on which councillors have their offices in the former ASB Tower.

One poster listed “10 Reo revitalisation strategies” such as always greeting people in Te Reo, consuming Māori TV and radio and practising the pronunciation of Te Reo out loud.

Another poster was headed “10 decolonisation actions for non-Māori”. That one included “speaking up when you hear racism, learn about the Declaration of Independence and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and advocate for fair Treaty settlements.

Williamson cited material he described as “so blatantly political”.

“If it is to be tolerated that staff and/or councillors can put stuff that’s so blatantly political up around the walls, then I’m fine with that, I’ll start putting up my own signs almost immediately,” he wrote.

But he said his preference was to keep the area “politically neutral” with “no signs for anyone”.

Williamson wrote to Alastair Cameron, who was then the acting governance director, reminding him that 18 days previously Cameron had responded to “several councillors other than myself” that he would “sort the issue out”.

“What is incredibly disappointing (although not unusual around this council) is nothing happened,” he said.

In a statement to Stuff, a council spokesperson said: “A staff member who had recently completed a Te Reo Māori course printed two of the course resources and shared them in a communal space on level 26″.

The solution to the complaint was to propose “the kitchen areas be kept politically neutral, with no signs put up at all – other than health and safety notices and the like”.

Cameron replied to Williamson that staff had two noticeboards in corridors where they can put up posters relevant to them.

The posters had been developed for Tāmaki Treaty workers several years ago for an event discussing understanding about racial justice and are available online.

“The posters were intended to be educational,” said the group’s Dr Heather Came, an awarded activist scholar specialising in the pursuit of racial justice.

“For some people, speaking te reo is political,” she said.


The poster incident had been flagged briefly in public at a council committee, by North Shore councillor Richard Hills. Stuff subsequently obtained the email exchange from the council.

Hills described the situation as disappointing and suggested it was childish.

“It’s disappointing grown adults are ripping down posters and upsetting staff, just because the posters encouraged things like the use of one of our official languages and encouraged us to stand up to racism. We’re supposed to be focused on governing a city,” Hills said.

Williamson copied his email to councillors Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker, John Watson, Ken Turner and Greg Sayers, Daniel Newman, as well as mayor Wayne Brown.

Of the councillors included in the email chain, only Turner responded to Stuff, saying he found the “decolonisation” poster objectionable, and saw the “te reo” one as a form of political lobbying that shouldn’t have been in the councillor lunchroom.

“Just like any other worker, I have the right to a restful and pressure-free lunch break. Moreover, our lunchroom should be a neutral and sociable space where councillors can joke, laugh, and maintain camaraderie,” Turner said.