Mike McRoberts and Oriini Kaipara discuss their 'opposite' te reo Māori journeys and the taonga of the language

Newshub presenters Mike McRoberts and Oriini Kaipara have discussed their totally "opposite" te reo Māori journeys and the importance of the "taonga" (gift) that is Aotearoa's indigenous language in celebration of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week). 

Newshub Live at 11.30am host Kaipara told The AM Show's Ryan Bridge about how Te Reo was her first language, while Newshub Live at 6pm presenter Mike McRoberts didn't connect with the language until much later in life. 

"I was immersed in te reo Māori from the moment my mum conceived me I suppose," Kaipara explained. 

"My grandparents were stalwarts in the revitalisation, as was the generation in the 80s, they set up kōhanga reo movements and kura kaupapa movements, so my education is pretty much total immersion." 

Kaipara added that Māori was the only language she grew up with until she "rebelled" as a teenager and discovered English. 

For McRoberts, the journey was the "exact opposite". 

"I'm part Māori if people don't know that already, my father is Māori, I'm Ngāti Kahungunu. My mother was pakeha, and I grew up in Christchurch where Māori was not spoken at all," he told Bridge. 

"It wasn't really offered either, when I was at school, or for some years afterwards. In fact, if you voiced a thought about learning Māori the normal response would be 'Why? What's the point?', because no one else speaks it anywhere else in the world. 

"Of course, as I got older I realised well that's exactly the point, no one else speaks it around the world, so this is a gift, this is a taonga that we have in Aotearoa New Zealand that we should be encouraging and fostering and developing." 

Kaipara said that as a broadcaster, her confidence was in her first language, te reo Māori, and she had battled with "internal barriers" when it came to presenting in English. 

"I've taken so many years and still do to assure myself that I can speak English," she explained. 

To switch between the two is actually an art. Articulating Māori thoughts in English can come out pretty wrong, and vice versa." 

Meanwhile, McRoberts has been learning Te Reo at home, which he said has been a "fantastic, wonderful embracing experience" that had "changed him as a person". 

"When I first started this journey, my thing was to get my pronunciation better and to be able to do a mihi or a pepeha but the more you get into it the more you realise it's a deeper understanding of the language," he said. 

"Being Māori myself and knowing a bit more about my identity and where I come from and what makes me up as a person is absolutely a gift." 

To anyone hesitant about trying their hand at Te Reo, McRoberts said: "You've got to jump in and do it at some point, you've got to give it a go. If everyone can do that it's going to be so much better for the country." 

Kaipara added to those sentiments by sharing a Māori whakataukī (proverb): "Tu whitia te hopo" which roughly translates to "feel the fear and do it anyway". 

It's not just with te reo Māori, it's with a lot of things in life where fear holds us back on so many levels. When it comes to Te Reo, there's many of us who so very much appreciate everyone giving it a go whether you're Māori or non-Māori. 

The fact that you have that willingness and that drive and that determination to do it, we're all behind here backing everyone and supporting and cheering for you."