Auckland Council disputes bilingual elevators a waste of ratepayers' money

By Talisa Kupenga

A not-for-profit group fed-up with wasteful spending by Auckland Council is asking whether bilingual elevators were a fair expense for ratepayers. The pilot was launched at the council's Albert Street premises in March with a price tag of $6200. 

Auckland Council is lifting its Te Reo Māori game with bilingual floor announcements in its headquarter's elevators, but some people are complaining about the price tag.

Auckland Ratepayers Alliance spokesperson Jordan Williams says "the feedback from our 16,000 members since we've gone out with this story has been 'this is a total waste of money."

Māori design specialist for Auckland City Council Olivia Haddon says "It's not a waste of money. It will have a big impact on achieving our outcome under the Auckland Plan of a Māori identity. What it does is it lays a platform for utilising Te Reo Māori that we hope other organisations will take up the challenge around the city within their towers."

The elevator software was upgraded to announce the floors. Its main office has ten lifts with up to 29 levels. Each level has its own name that references navigation or refers to the Māori calendar.

Williams says spending $6200 on lifts is not the best way to encourage the use of Te Reo Māori but Haddon disagrees.

"The uptake of Te Reo Maori has more than doubled since the roll-out of the lifts within the whare. We have lots of people feeling more confident about speaking Māori, they know the names and now use the names for each floor and what they mean and it's cemented the simple number system of counting in te reo Māori. It's only been positive."

The project would have cost the same amount to record only one language. The council says it is a small cost given its $3.7billion operations budget.

Williams says a roll-out to every Auckland Council building could cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars”. Haddon says the same expenditure would not be recreated for every building it was just “a matter of inserting the correct software into the lift system".

Council says at the moment it has no immediate plans to roll-out the project to its other premises.