Dame Susan Devoy slams writer complaining about te reo

  • 24/11/2017
"Language can divide us - as this opinion writer would like it to do. But more and more, language is bringing people together."
"Language can divide us - as this opinion writer would like it to do. But more and more, language is bringing people together." Photo credit: The Hui

An opinion piece in a major newspaper complaining about te reo being used on radio has been slammed by the Race Relations Commissioner.

Fisherman and writer Dave Witherow's opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times titled 'Haere mai? Everything is far from ka pai!' complained of how te reo was being inflicted on the population by Radio New Zealand.

In a statement, Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy said Mr Witherow needed to remember exactly where he lived.

"Anyone who complains about te reo Māori being used and celebrated in this country needs to get one thing straight: this is New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand - so get used to it," she said.

"Language can divide us - as this opinion writer would like it to do. But more and more, language is bringing people together."

Ms Devoy noted Mr Witherow emigrated from Ireland, where people had to fight for the right to speak their own indigenous language, Irish Gaelic.

In the piece Mr Witherow refers to Māori complaining about mispronunciation of their names as " Māori snowflakes" and says those who wish to speak te reo should not "insist on inflicting it on the English-speaking majority".

The piece coincides with another South Island news publication, the Marlborough Express, publishing a front page headline in te reo.

The opinion piece has been described as "the most racist thing of the year" by Leonie Hayden, an editor at The Spinoff.

RNZ journalist Alex Behan said that the staff "speak te reo, cos we want to and it's a choice."

Journalist Don Rowe asked why the newspaper was publishing the "gin-soaked ramblings of this racist old crustacean".

Otago Daily Times journalist Chris Morris said "I work for the ODT and I happen to love hearing Te Reo on the radio each morning. #notmyopinionpiece."

NZN