Reserve Bank further embraces Māori language and culture

By Tema Hemi

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand today welcomed a group of Rotorua secondary school students from Ngāti Whakaue. 

"It was really awesome for us rangatahi to see and hear from everyone here about the history of our Pūkāki coin," says Lahaina Kiel from Rotorua Girls’ High School.

“I have to say thank you firstly to my hapū Ngāti Whakaue for this amazing experience and bringing us here to Wellington.”

Kiel is one of six secondary school students of Ngāti Whakaue descent who received this year’s Pūkāki Educational Award Scholarship.

In 1990, the Reserve Bank came under fire when it branded the New Zealand 20 cent coin, with the carved image of the 18th century Ngāti Whakaue chief Pūkāki, without proper consultation.

"I was working at the Rotorua Museum at the time and I was approached by Hamuera Mitchell, the old fella. He was concerned, he wanted to know who gave permission," says Ngāti Whakaue representative Paul Tapsell. 

“We managed to track it back to the Auckland Museum and the Te Arawa Trust Board at the time,” he says.

Governor of the Reserve Bank Adrian Orr, at the time, was the Deputy Reserve Bank Governor, and he’s noticed a massive positive change across his organisation.

"We've gone through quite a steep learning curve ourselves over the last 15 years," says Mr Orr. "Bringing their students down, which is an annual event and been going on since 2004, is part of that learning curve for ourselves as an institution, but [something] we can also put back into tangata whenua."

The Reserve Bank also signed a memorandum of understanding mahi tahi agreement with the Māori Language Commission following today’s welcome for the Ngāti Whakaue students.

"I acknowledge the Reserve Bank.  If that is the standard of te reo that they are going to apply to their day-to-day functions, I look forward to when that becomes a regular occurrence within all government department," says The Māori Language Commission, Tumu Whakarae, Ngahiwi Apanui.

"When we first came here there was no reo.  It was like what you would expect from a government department, pre-2010. And where they are today...embracing Māori as part of who we are, but respecting the boundaries as well," Tapsell says. 

From the Pūkaki Education Scholarships to the Māori language MOU, the Reserve Bank is putting its money where its mouth is and embracing te reo Māori me ōna tikanga.