Ōmokoroa Point School on a mission to add a macron
Without a tohutō (macron) Ōmokoroa isn’t spelt right. Names have whakapapa (lineage) just like people and they need to be respected.
That’s the message Western Bay of Plenty District Councillors received from Ōmokoroa Point School’s Room 10 class, who presented their case at Council’s Policy Committee meeting.
The class is leading a campaign to add a tohutō to the O of Ōmokoroa on all of the town’s signage. At present, some signs have the tohutō, and some don’t.
Having identified the issue in Term 2 this year, the rangatahi have been campaigning to spell the name right since. So far this has included emails to Land and Information New Zealand confirming the legal spelling of Ōmokoroa, communication with Councillors, an online form for the public to complete and show support, a social media campaign and even a ‘macron rap’ that spells out the problem.
Room 10’s argument is simple, if a word needs a tohutō but doesn’t have it, the word could have another meaning altogether. Like keke (cake) and kēkē (armpit). The tohutō also tells people how to pronounce the name correctly, which is just as important for identifying the name’s history and meaning. They ask that Council respect the language and the culture by adding a tohutō.
Four speakers from the class, spelled out their case to the Councillors in attendance, and concluded with three simple requests - that Council help to get all of the Council signage in the area changed to include a tohutō on Ōmokoroa, that the other signage around the Western Bay is reviewed and any that have a legal name with a tohutō are updated.
The last and final request was for Council to design a new sign (billboard) at the entrance of Ōmokoroa, including the tohutō. Council responded immediately inviting the students of Room 10 to help with the new design.
Room 10 Teacher Deirdre Duggan says this is just the beginning. The kids will also be working with businesses in their community to get all of the local signage changed to reflect the tohutō.
“The next step is to look at tohutō throughout the Western Bay – there are other places that need the macron added because it’s part of their legal name. Then we’re going to write to the Ministry of Education and get our school’s name officially changed, so we can add the tohutō everywhere.”
Deirdre says the kids are really passionate about getting some change in the community.
“The kids have found out through this process it’s actually the legal way you spell the name. I wanted to take them though the process of how to make change the proper way, and who do we need to talk to about doing it.”
Room 10 has the support of the Pirirākau hapū and local te reo Māori linguist Teraania Ormsby-Teki on their journey to support the history and cultural significance of Ōmokoroa. They have both endorsed the efforts and note that tohutō is important part of the whakapapa of the place, as it often acknowledges that something important happened there or someone important lived there or died there.
The rangatahi are also learning about the process of social change and community change. Deidre says this is also a chance for the students to look at what goes on behind the scenes at the decisions that are made in our community.
“Ōmokoroa’s growing so fast and its changing, and we’ve got to make sure that when it’s changing it’s changing the right way. …To start off as we mean to finish with being respectful to the place we live and this is part of that process.
“Looking to the future these rangatahi will be able to come back to the community and say we helped that social process.”
Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber is extremely supportive of the initiative and was delighted to welcome the students into the Council Chambers.
“This is a fantastic initiative. We are taking Room Ten’s request seriously and our Council team will be looking at how we can help to make this happen.
“As a community we need more advocates like these rangatahi. They’re doing a fantastic job of showing their community how to use and respect the reo.
“We really appreciate their mahi (work) and we know they’ll be carefully correcting the spelling of Ōmokoroa wherever they see it without it’s tohutō.”
Council has included a tohutō for all new communications that include Ōmokoroa following discussion with Pirirakāu hapū in 2020. Since then, all new signs and publications have included a tohutō on Ōmokoroa.
Old signs will have a macron added or will be replaced with the correct spelling as per the usual maintenance schedule.