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Top of New Zealand in Te Reo

Language comes naturally ‘but you have to practice’

SPEAKING Maori comes naturally to Gisborne Tairawhiti student Pounamu Wharehinga, who has been named the country's top scholar in Te Reo Maori for 2019.

“The language does come naturally to me but to fit the criteria of NZQA and NCEA level 3 you have to adapt your language to it,” Pounamu said.

“You have to practice to better your language by using metaphors and similes in te reo.

“You learn differences between really simple things like pronunciation of syllables. Those simple things are really helpful in the long run. That's what I enjoyed about it.”

Pounamu attended Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga.

Maxwell Matenga taught Pounamu and she thanked him for teaching the subject and pushing her to achieve her goals.

“I would also like to thank my kura kaupapa that provided the space where I can express myself in a very Maori way — I loved that — My family for supporting me and Dad for being my number one supporter,” Pounamu said.

She left Gisborne today to study commercial music at Massey University's School of Creative Arts in Wellington.

When Pounamu is performing she goes by the name Miss Pou.

In 2015 she released an EP called Ahakoa He Iti. All the songs are in Te Reo Maori.

Pounamu won the Mana Wahine Award at the Smokefree Tangata Beats national finals in September 2019.

She dedicated the award to her band, Mahuika.

Pounamu is the daughter of Gisborne's deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga.

'Ecstatic, surprised, amazed all at once'

RUATORIA teenager Hunaara Waerehu could not believe his eyes when he went on line to check his NCEA results and discovered he was the top Te Reo Rangatira scholar in the country.

The 17-year-old has studied at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria right through his schooling days.

He is in Year 13 this year.

Hunaara earned himself a $2000 a year scholarship for his tertiary education, which he intends to pursue next year.

“When I looked at my results online I could not believe it,” he said.

“My results said ‘outstanding, the top scholar award’ and I thought ‘this cannot be true’.”

“So I rang the NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) and asked the lady who answered the phone to check it for me.

“She came back on the phone and said ‘congratulations’ and that’s when I finally believed it.

“I was ecstatic, very surprised and amazed all at once.”

Hunaara’s mum, Mary-Jeane Waerehu, said her son had been a total immersion student since he started school.

“We are all very proud of him. He lost his father and his grandmother in the past year and given those trials, Hunaara’s achievement is pretty extraordinary. He’s worked hard for it and deserves it.”

Hunaara based his scholarship writing and recorded speech on the traditional Ngati Porou dialect.

“I spoke how a pakeke at home would speak and obviously that has paid off,” he said.

“I feel this should encourage other students. Instead of looking at modern Maori language usage we should look at our own iwi and hapu reo dialects.

“That’s what I really believe in.”

The teenager was grateful to his school principal Phil Heeney for his tutoring and guidance.

“Also, all my pakeke at home who have nurtured me in te reo.

“Special thanks to my parents who sent me to Kura Kaupapa Maori and to my grandparents who raised me in their native reo.

“They are the reason I am so passionate about the reo.”

At this stage, Hunaara plans to head to the University of Auckland next year to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in accounting.

Two Tairawhiti tauira (students) were the top scholarship students for Te Reo Maori and Te Reo Rangatira in New Zealand for 2019. Pounamu Wharehinga (above) was top scholar in Te Reo Maori. She finished at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga in Gisborne last year and headed for Massey University today to study commercial music. Hunaara Waerehu (next picture) was top scholar in Te Reo Rangatira. He is into his last year at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria. Both students receive a tertiary studies scholarship of $2000 each year for up to three years. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell
Two Tairawhiti tauira (students) were the top scholarship students for Te Reo Maori and Te Reo Rangatira in New Zealand for 2019. Hunaara Waerehu (above) was top scholar in Te Reo Rangatira. He is into his last year at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria. Pounamu Wharehinga (previous picture) was top scholar in Te Reo Maori. She finished at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga in Gisborne last year and headed for Massey University today to study commercial music. Both students receive a tertiary studies scholarship of $2000 each year for up to three years. Picture by Paul Rickard

  1. Grace, Wellington says:

    Congratulations Hunaara

  2. Laurence Duckworth says:

    Ka nui te pai Hunaara. it is great to see the hard work of Ripeka Heeney and others coming to fruition. I had the pleasure of working with them in the mid-70s.

  3. Monica Koia, Feilding says:

    Ka mau te wehi. The cost of tertiary education is expensive, even though first year fees are waived. More investment in tertiary education is needed by our iwi, including mentoring.