2020-09-30 04:52:17 UTC
New Zealand firms switch to using nation's Indigenous name, Aotearoa
Vodafone and communications agency DDB respond after calls on
companies to use the reo term
Charlotte Graham-McLay26 Jun 2020
Once under threat, the Maori language te reo is undergoing a
resurgence Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Wed 30 Sep 2020 04.50 BST
One of New Zealands biggest telecommunications companies has heeded
an exhortation to use the countrys original, Indigenous name of
Aotearoa, joining others that have pledged to use more reo, the Maori
language, or tikanga protocols in their daily business operations.
Earlier this week Vodafone which has about 2,000 New Zealand
employees confirmed it had changed its banner at the top of users
phones from Vodafone NZ to VF Aotearoa. The company gave short
shrift to those on social media who complained about the change. Rival
companies backed the move.
It came as DDB Group Aotearoa a communications agency with 250 local
staff changed its name from DDB Group New Zealand. The shift came
along with efforts to recruit more diverse staff and funding for
employees to attend Maori language courses on work time. Both firms
were prompted by an urging by Ngati Whatua Orakei a hapu, or
sub-tribe, in the city of Auckland to individually and collectively
use the word Aotearoa.
Tina Ngata, an Indigenous rights advocate, said the move was healing
and an act of anti-racism, affirming the story that there were people
living here before colonisation happened.
[The name] New Zealand does erase who was there, she said. I
personally think when you use the term Aotearoa, its more inclusive.
Justin Mowday from DDB Group said the firm wanted to be involved in
creating an Aotearoa more embracing of Te Ao Maori, meaning the
Te reo Maori is experiencing a resurgence in New Zealand until
recent years, there were fears it would die out altogether with
individual words, greetings or proverbs more apparent in daily life
and long waiting lists for those eager to take lessons. Jacinda
Ardern, the prime minister, hopes to see 1 million New Zealanders
speaking the language by 2040.
Its renewed popularity has provoked a debate about whether placenames
should be returned to their original monikers from before European and
British colonisers arrived. The name New Zealand comes from the Dutch
Nieuw Zeeland, and was bestowed on the country by a Dutch mapmaker.
Aotearoa is commonly translated as land of the long white cloud.
When one Vodafone user threatened on Twitter to switch service
providers after noticing the change on his phone this week, Vodafone
replied that the move was simply to celebrate one of the three
beautiful official languages in the country (the third is New Zealand
There are no plans to change it at this stage, the company added on
A rival company, 2Degrees, asked the complainant kei te pehea koe,
or how are you? before telling the man that he better not switch to
us because the firm love[s] celebrating te reo Maori too!
And Spark, Vodafones largest competitor, added on Twitter: Te Reo is
a normal part of our country and we will continue to encourage and
give tools to those who wish to expand their knowledge and cultural
It is common for companies to use more te reo during the annual Maori
language week in September, but many abandon it afterwards. Ngata said
companies deploying the language should follow it up by becoming more
inclusive in your companies policies as well.
Maori still face discrimination, worse health outcomes, and
overrepresentation in the justice system compared with Pakeha, or New
Zealanders of European descent.
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