Every number tells a story
Tairāwhiti accountants say an in-depth understanding of tikanga (customs) and te reo (language) Māori are key in building strong business relationships with Māori organisations.
BDO Gisborne director Kylee Potae says te reo Māori adds depth and richness to what accountants do professionally, “thinking above profit”.
Ms Potae is also accounting collaboration member for Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa, the National Maori Accountants Network.
“Financials are numbers,” she says. “When we read them, on the face of it you could say ‘here's the profit number or a loss number' but with te reo Māori the narrative can go deeper, converting the numbers into stories.
“We have the English language, too, which is predominantly spoken in New Zealand, but by blending the two languages true partnership can be seen in action.”
Ms Potae said for accountants, “if we want to expand our decision-making from the numbers, interweaving te reo Māori into our conversation enables Māori in business to engage and enjoy the financial side of being in business”.
“Equally, non-Māori businesses want to interweave te reo Māori in their corporate values. For example, the word “aroha” (love), is used by many corporations these days because it encapsulates succinctly what we are trying to achieve.
“That's the beauty of te reo Māori — single words bring depth and meaning. It is key to be succinct to keep the reader engaged in the financials.”
Gisborne District Council finance manager Mel Hartung uses te reo Māori whenever she can, mostly in greetings and emails.Te Kaunihera o Te Tairāwhiti-
“I think te reo Māori should be promoted by all businesses in te Tairāwhiti. In my workplace it is embedded and a part of who we are and our values.
“As the finance manager at GDC (Te Kaunihera o Te Tairāwhiti), I believe it is not just about te reo, it's also about tikanga (protocols and customs).
“It's important for chartered accountants to have an understanding of tikanga and te reo Māori so they can build strong business relationships with Māori organisations and iwi groups.
“It has been great to see that within the accounting profession, they have seen the value of tikanga in the workplace and have been supporting members to expand their knowledge of tikanga, kawa and Māori values.”
David Battin is chief financial officer at Mangatu Blocks Incorporation and Integrated Foods Limited in Gisborne. He said knowledge of te reo Māori was an important part of the Māori organisations he worked with, “understanding tikanga and elements of te ao Māori which are embedded in our daily lives”.
“The accounting profession nationally is realising how important this knowledge is in terms of traditions, values, and knowing what it means for us as accountants and everyday people.
“I am quite lucky that I am able to embrace that and be surrounded by it. It is one of the reasons I stay in this profession in the area that I do. A Māori-centred environment is important to me as a person, just as much as an accountant.
“There is a lot of growth in the future of the Māori economy, not only in a post-settlement environment, but in businesses like where I work. We are very much driven from a Māori world view.
“We need more Māori accountants. We also need professional advisers who are more than just sympathetic to the concept of being Māori, but who embrace everything which goes with it, including te reo Māori. This is important from any adviser's point of view.”
Wayne Panapa, chief operating officer at Ngāti Porou Holdings Co, said for him, “ko te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, he mea kirikawa ki tō tātou tuakiritanga. Te Reo Māori me ōna tikanga, is a critical element of our tuakiritanga (identity)”.
“It allows me to articulate my connection to the whenua (land) and whānau (family) through a te ao Māori world view. These connections hold great value to us as Māori people.
“In my time as a chartered accountant, te reo Māori has been my poutokomanawa (pillar of strength).
“I know that our Māori clients and shareholders appreciate being spoken to in te reo Māori, as the key communication tool, in explaining their financial results. It immediately creates a comfortable and relaxed environment for our clients in what o can often be an unfamiliar experience.
“In recognising the value of te reo Māori in a professional capacity, I must acknowledge Tā (Sir) Henare Ngata, the first Māori chartered accountant. I recall a trust meeting that I attended of the Ngā Tamatoa Trust. I listened to Tā Henare speaking in te reo Māori to his fellow trustees, all native speakers, about the key matters of the day. However, it was listening to his articulation of the key financial matters ‘i roto i te reo rangatira' that reinforced for me, the place that te reo Māori has in our profession and indeed in any given profession.
“This experience inspired me to continue to learn and speak te reo Māori with a focus on terminology specific to the accounting and finance sector — in turn, and hopefully by example, encouraging my colleagues that our workspace is a place where te reo Māori can and should be spoken.
“For me, Sir H K Ngata epitomises what we as Maori accounting professionals aspire to be. First and foremost we are Māori, it is our unique point of difference, and after that we are chartered accountants, again demonstrating the importance of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, which for me sits hand in hand with all other technical competencies of a chartered accountant.
“Nō reira e te rangatira, e te Hikatoa, Tā Henare, i tēnei wiki o te reo Māori, nei rā te mihi te reo Māori is a critical element of my identity along with our whakapapa, tikanga and toi Māori.”
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