Makitānara: The role of reo Māori in hauora

Looking back at the headlines last month you may have spotted our take on Hastings McDonalds becoming the first in the country to introduce bilingual menus, written in both English and Māori.

Here at Toi Tangata, we stand behind using Māori culture and language to promote hauora and wellbeing and commend the efforts by Ngati Kahungunu to normalise te reo Māori. However, a few concerns were raised and we questioned the promotion of te reo Māori at fast food establishments.

It is a challenging situation. On the one hand, yes, it is amazing that we are seeing reo Māori normalised and in places where whanau will see it. But on the other hand, are unhealthy fast food outlets really the right place to be seeing it? The challenge is in striking the balance between normalising our beautiful language and ensuring it is used in a positive and uplifting way.

It is our obligation as an organisation to ensure whānau are informed of healthier eating options and the potentially negative impact of fast food outlets. Having spaces where we can practise and normalise te reo is both absolutely necessary and desired, but we need to make more conscious decisions on the impacts of our oranga.

McDonalds’ use of te reo Māori really highlights the need for a wider conversation to be had amongst Māori organisations and communities to look at opportunities to increase health and supportive kai environments which promote and grow te reo. Clear messages need to be sent about health and well-being to whānau, communities and especially tamariki.

A small number of Māori food outlets across New Zealand have started the trend, including Kākano cafe in Otautahi and Koha Kai in Murihiku. We should be looking at how we support our Māori economy, including local social enterprises that promote healthy kai.

As a Māori health agency, we welcome any opportunity to tautoko approaches that weave language revitalisation with oranga Māori and invite healthy food outlets to follow Ngati Kahungunu’s lead and incorporate more reo Māori.

There is a need to be more intentional in our messaging when the odds are constantly stacked against tamariki, whānau and communities. Protecting them from overexposure to junk food marketing around unhealthy food and beverages is a societal responsibility.

Initiatives, such as the recent poitarawhiti tournament in Auckland which was conducted entirely in te reo Māori attracted over 600 students from kura kaupapa and mainstream schools, affirms the interest exists.

McDonalds has plans to roll their bilingual menus out to all McDonalds restaurants in Hawke’s Bay and we continue to welcome discussion on the role of te reo Māori in the advocacy and achievement of hauora.