10 Māori words every consultant or engineer should know

Troy Brockbank (Te RarawaNgāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is a Kaitohutohu Matua Taiao/Senior Environmental Consultant with WSP. We caught up with him during Māori Language Week to learn how easy it is to incorporate Te Reo into our working life. 

Troy Brockbank

Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is a Kaitohutohu Matua Taiao/Senior Environmental Consultant with WSP. We caught up with him during Māori Language Week to learn about how easy it is to incorporate Te Reo into our working life. 

Why should we be incorporating te reo Māori (Māori language) into our working world? 

I am reminded of a whakataukī (proverb) from my whānaunga from Ngāti Hine: 

“Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori Ko te kupu te mauri o te reo Māori E rua ēnei wehenga kōrero e hāngai tonu ana ki runga i te reo Māori Ko te reo, nō te Atua mai” 

- Tā Himi Henare 

“The language is the life force of the mana Māori. The word is the life force of the language These two ideas are absolutely crucial to the Māori language A language, which is a gift to us from above.” 

 – Sir James Henare 

Including te reo Māori in everyday work processes is an important way that businesses can show they are an inclusive organisation, not only of the language but also Te Ao Māori (Māori world view). It is important because only through embracing te reo Māori can you fully understand Te Ao Māori. 

Is identity important to Māori in a business sense? 

Identity comes from whakapapa and genealogy. If there is a desire to be inclusive by bringing young Māori into our profession, we need to ensure they can see themselves as part of the industry. 

There are currently a small number of Māori professionals who work as consulting engineers, so it should become a focus for our industry to grow that representation. This can be done by being inclusive and embracing Te Reo. 

Pupils at Kura Kaupapa, Māori immersion schools and bi-lingual schools are taught in Te Reo Māori, so if our industry fails to promote Te Reo, we restrict the interest of those children to enter our professions. Many Māori tamariki and rangatahi, as well as a new generation that have been more emersed in Māori culture, will be seeking employment in the future, and they will be looking closely at businesses that embrace the indigenous language of the nation. 

How well is our sector weaving Māori language into everyday business? 

We have moved on a lot since the decades of the Haka party. 

Some companies and individuals are doing quite well, but overall the inclusion of Te Reo is a rarity in our industry in everyday business. For instance, it is generally difficult to spot the word Māori on company websites. I think it is quite important that businesses in our industry begin to look at how Te Reo can be incorporated into their website, and into everyday work, to demonstrate inclusivity within their business model. 

Another thing is that companies are very quick to adopt and partake in Te Wiki o te reo Māori; Implementing quick easy wins for only one week per year. Let’s start making every week te wiki o te reo Māori at work and empower staff to kōrero Māori for all 52 weeks. 

How do you begin to embrace Te Reo in your business? 

It is relatively easy, and I recommend taking small steps at the start. The word momentum is the answer. Momentum is not about achieving something; it is about continually achieving something in small steps and moving things along. You could start by replacing hello with kia ora (hello any number of people) in written work or say kia ora when greeting workmates or clients. Sign off email's with Nga mihi' (kind regards or thank you) or Nāku noa, nā (yours sincerely). You could also reach out to marae, hapū, iwi, groups or cultural advisors to facilitate Te Reo courses and training for workers. Organise for a team building event to be held on your local marae to better understand the why, the tikanga, behind the language. 

Incorporating whakataukī (Māori proverbs) into our work is another way of introducing Te Reo to your workplace. We all should be thinking about how we pronounce Māori words as incorrect pronunciation may end up being very embarrassing. Here are a couple of examples: keke is a cake while kēkē means armpit, so you have to be very careful what you want to bite (The macron indicates a drawn-out vowel sound). Many towns have both Māori and English names but many times we only use the English name. Why not use Ōtautahi instead of Christchurch or maybe you can say it together – Ōtautahi Christchurch. As an industry, we should encourage people to learn Te Reo, Māori beliefs and Māori world views because it can only enhance our work with the community. 

Many organisations employ kiwis and immigrants of different cultures and language backgrounds, for many of these people they already understand the importance of a language to cultural identity and all they need is the ok from the organisation to go ahead and embrace te reo in the work place.   



Should there be greater cultural understanding before becoming a chartered engineer? 

When you look at the chartered pathways in our industry, there are no competencies around anything cultural. A small step could be to make it compulsory that engineers have an understanding of Te Ao Māori, Te Reo, Tikanga and Mātauranga Māori as part of the competency framework. This has been a successful CPD addition to the Planning profession. 

As organisations operating within Aotearoa New Zealand we either have direct responsibilities to Te Tiriti O Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi), or responsibility through our clients. So it really comes down to us as individuals and organisations upholding these obligations to Te Tiriti which include protecting and promoting te reo Māori and encouraging its use by iwi and Māori. 

Now to tekau (10) Māori words that you could use in the engineering and consultancy sectors? 

Whakapapa: Most people think of this as genealogy, but it's really about laying connections (lit.  layering of the earth). We can relate to this in terms of a project. Whakapapa relates to where a project comes from, the history of the project, the history of a site, and our connections to the site and the haukāinga (home people). 

Kaitiakitanga: This relates to protection, stewardship and guardianship. The main word is "tiaki" which means to protect. So "Kaitiakitanga" is about our obligation to protect the environment that we live in and the protection of each other.  

Manaakitanga: Being hospitable towards each other, making sure we care for each other and look after each other. Manaakitanga is such a fundamental thing in Maoridom as it's more powerful to care for someone than it is to take from. It is about sharing wealth and knowledge with those who require it. 

Whānaungatanga: Relationships/Connections, the action of making a familyThink of this as a relationship or a partnership where you are forming connections with each other, companies and projects. 

Mātauranga: You will often hear this as Mātauranga Māori, which means Māori knowledge. It is not just about traditional knowledge but can be about everyday knowledge which is generally a combination of western science and indigenous knowledge.  

Kaipūkaha: The Māori name for an engineer. 

Mana: Authority, power, respect. This has almost become part of everyday language. Mana it is made up of two words – ma (by) and na (for). Mana is about giving respect; by showing respect to a person or a thing, you give them/it the mana. On the flip side, disrespecting someone or something takes away the mana.   

Mauri: Wellbeing or a life forceI think it is essential that engineers understand mauri and be able to incorporate it into their designs. No matter what happens, you should always be enhancing mauri -  mauri of the environment, mauri of the people and mauri of the hāpori (community). As an engineer, we should never put ourselves in a position where our designs and our work are not enhancing mauri. 

Tutū: This is one of my favourite words and has real meaning for budding engineers. You may have grown up with people who told you to have a tutū or play around with something. When I was growing up as an engineer, I would pull things apart to see what made them tick and try and make them better. I was the haututū (mischievous child). Being a tutū is part of being an engineer. 

Wero: To be challenged. The challenge in an engineering sense is kia taha ake or give it a go. That's what we have been talking about in this blog – Kia Kaha Te Reo Māori – give it a go and make Te Reo Māori strong. 

Further your understanding of Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori: 

Connect with Troy Brockbank on LinkedIn