Case Number: 2997

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Editorial Discretion
Offensive Language


On January 23, 2021 the New Zealand Herald published Moss’ exit beginning of the end:Māori leaders.

The article reported several Māori leaders’ responses to the resignation of the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki, Grainne Moss, and the appointment of Sir Wira Gardiner as acting chief executive.

To sum up they expressed a hope that the resignation would offer a “chance for a ‘reset’ rooted in Māori leadership.”

The article recoded the iwi affiliations of Sir Wira. It also included use of other words in te reo – wahine, tamariki Māori, Rangatiratanga, mana motuhake and whanau for instance.

Eamon Sloan complained about “the over-use of what can only be termed unnecessary Māori language flourishes”. He saw them as untranslatable distractions and irrelevant to the greater number of readers. The mixing of languages detracts from what is otherwise a normal news item and the blending of the two languages could only lead to an inferior English language, he argued.

The Herald responded that te reo Māori is an official NZ language. Further, it considered it to be a taonga for our entire country and said theHerald was honoured to contribute to celebrating its use at all levels of society.

Mr Sloan rejected the Herald’s response.

The Media Council notes that recording iwi affiliation is a common practice and that many of the te reo words used were direct quotes from those contributing.

Many Māori words have been used in New Zealand English for a very long time and they are widely understood and accepted. The most obvious examples include kia ora, Aotearoa, wahine, pa, mana, haka, pounamu and the innumerable words used to identify mountains, rivers, harbours, towns and our flora and fauna. The blending of languages that has taken place over the history of New Zealand is distinctive but the process is similar to that seen in countries all around the world where different cultures have merged and developed.

We also note that the English language has freely adopted words from other languages over time, as well as developing local variants.

In this story, which involves serious complaints by Māori against Oranga Tamariki, it is hardly surprising to find a more frequent use of Maori terms including rangatiratangi, mana motuhake or tamariki.

It is hard to sustain any argument that they are "unnecessary Māori flourishes" or to describe them as "untranslatable distractions and therefore irrelevant" when their meanings are widely understood or readily discoverable.

Finally, it is up to a news media organisation to decide the extent to which it wishes to use Māori words.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.


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