Regional | Rotorua

Rotorua real estate agent offers te reo signs in bid to encourage Māori homeowners

First National real estate agent Andrea Fenton has produced bilingual signs in te reo and English for her listings.

Gen Z wahine-Māori Andrea Fenton is working to show homeownership is achievable in her community.

The 27-year-old real estate agent with First National Rotorua has decided to use te reo on some of her marketing signs, and says her policy is to empower indigenous homeowners by working within a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face-to-face) model.

The te reo signs have made a splash in Rotorua, with praise from the mayor and one seller saying, “We’re a bilingual country and we need te reo to be out there.”

Fenton has three young children and is of Ngāti Whātua, while her partner is Te Arawa. They are renting while they work towards the goal of buying a home.

She said she wanted to change the perception she believed some people held that home ownership was only for Pākehā or the rich.

Latest Stats NZ figures from 2021 found about 1.4 million New Zealanders lived in houses they did not own. Pacific peoples and Māori were less likely to own their home or hold it in a family trust than other ethnic groups.

“I got into real estate to find and gain knowledge so that I could pass that information on to our next generations, to my friends and whānau who don’t even think home ownership is a possibility.”

Beginning in real estate as an administrator in 2021, she moved into selling houses at the start of this year.

“I have always believed in working from the bottom to the top. I didn’t want to jump straight into sales. For me, it was really important to learn about the foundation and gain more of an understanding of the industry before jumping straight out on my own.

“Stepping into a world that’s predominantly a Pākehā industry, as well as mostly older people, was scary for me. I didn’t know many friends or whānau that owned their own home and, being Māori, we were just happy renting.”

‘Hallelujah’, says vendor

Jo-Anne Edmonds is selling her home on Ngongotahā Rd with Fenton. She is of European heritage and her children are Māori. When she was offered a sign in te reo, she said her reaction was: “Hallelujah”.

“I thought finally, let’s go. Being part of the Rotorua community and the total immersion here, this is the direction we’re going. We’re a bilingual country.

Television presenter Scotty Morrison was MC when Rotorua became New Zealand's first bilingual city in 2017. Photo / Stephen Parker, NZ Herald

“It was great for me to learn those words in Māori so really, [Fenton] is extending my learning by having it and that’s going to get it out to the community as well.”

Matt Pryor, marketing manager at Whāriki - Māori Business Network Aotearoa said incorporating te reo in business reflected growing normalisation of te reo Māori, an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Using te reo in real estate signage is a way for more people to become familiar with the language in an easy-to-understand format. Te reo Māori is unique to Aotearoa New Zealand; using the language in everyday business activity demonstrates that our country is developing cultural maturity.”

Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell said it was great to see locals sharing Māori language in their business.

Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell. Photo / Laura Smith

“Rotorua was the first bilingual city in New Zealand, and 40 per cent of our population is Māori.

“Real estate is a challenging and competitive market at the moment so I congratulate Andrea on finding an innovative and uniquely Rotorua way to promote houses for sale.”

Te Tatau o Te Arawa’s deputy chair, Mariana Vercoe, said the iwi supported any initiative that celebrated te reo rangatira and commended Fenton on her ambition to help whānau Māori into home ownership. It contributed to Rotorua Reorua, a kaupapa that aimed to ensure te reo Māori, alongside the English language, was seen, heard and celebrated.

Vercoe said: “Ka wani kē koe, Andrea, me tō whakaaro rangatira. We mihi your initiative to enhance our rohe by producing bilingual signs which celebrate what makes Aotearoa stand out from the rest of the world and that is te ao Māori. You go, girl!”

Aleyna Martinez is a multimedia journalist based in the Bay of Plenty.

- NZ Herald