GJ Gardner apologises for mispronunciation of Taranaki, pulls TV ad

By Te Rina Triponel

A storm that blew up over the way Taranaki was said in a G J Gardner TV ad has resulted in the company pulling the ad and apologising.

It began when a Taranaki resident told GJ Gardner off for the mispronunciation of Taranaki in an ad showing on TV and said: “I am disappointed in the way you have people saying Taranaki on mainstream TV. Maybe you could help to educate your staff and workers as to how you say Taranaki correctly.”

Te Waka Ruapounamu McLeod suggested a cultural competency course for GJ Gardner staff, which she was happy to assist with if they were interested but the response surprised her.

“Our Taranaki franchise owners are real people, not paid actors,” a GJ Gardner spokesperson said. “They’re born and bred in the region. This is how they choose to pronounce their home town – it’s a personal choice. This keeps our TV advert authentic.”

After McLeod put her response to the company comments on social media, GJ Gardner was contacted by a large number of people saying it was important to pronounce Māori names correctly, which led the company to reflect on its stance.

Then Grant Porteous, the owner of the national franchise rights for GJ Gardner, wrote to McLeod and said, “I wish to apologise. We do not wish to offend any New Zealanders of any ethnicity, culture, religion or lifestyle.”

Porteous says GJ Gardner had high demands to meet after the serious impact of Covid-19.

The company had to ensure the completion of customers' homes, and to help secure the jobs of more than 450 staff who worked in local franchises, as well as the 6,000 tradies whose families' livelihoods relied on the business.

“I don’t note that as an excuse - it is just a reality - and I should have given the concerns raised more immediate consideration regardless of work and life pressures.”

“I simply didn’t take the time to listen and understand or oversee our response.”

“The 'personal choice' comment being my comment, it would be anyone’s personal choice if they wish to embark on learning Te Reo, not one I’d dictate in response to some complainants' suggestions we must do so.”

“I was mortified to learn we’d caused further offence.”

“We need to do better, even if it means unlearning 50 to 60 years of old habits.”

Porteous says the company will look to consult its ad's presenter who is a "passionate Māori and skilled in teaching Te Reo."

"This highlights to me some very good learnings and also the scary fact we may have been causing offence to others who simply remained quiet."