Government funds study on Southlanders' accent

University of Canterbury (file)
University of Canterbury (file)

More than half a million dollars is being spent to try and find out why Southlanders roll their Rs.

The study is part of the largest round of grants from the Government's Marsden Fund, however some are questioning whether it's money well spent.

It's an accent they're proud of and a tongue-in-cheek test they're used to - the rolling Rs marking Southlanders out from the rest of New Zealand.

It's thought the region's unique dialect has evolved from its Scottish heritage.

"Because you know no one else in New Zealand really has an accent - like, it's quite odd that it actually happened with such a small population in a small country," says Invercargill Library learning connections coordinator Bridget Duncan.

Now researchers at Canterbury University have been given a $530,000 taxpayer grant to study the Southland accent.

$65 million worth of research grants were handed out in the latest Marsden Fund round.

But the Taxpayers' Union says grants like this are an embarrassment, and many Southlanders are also questioning whether there's better ways of spending taxpayer dollars.

The unique twist can be heard right across the Southland district, and as far north as Gore, but some say multi-cultural influences are slowly changing the dialect.

"It's destroying it in some ways, destroying the old Southland accent," says Invercargill Toastmasters Club's Meyers Newsome.

He's reckons it'll be half a million dollars well-spent to study and document an important part of the region's history.