Story: Māori radio – reo irirangi

Page 4. The iwi radio network

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New iwi stations go to air

From 1985 the example set by Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo was followed by a wave of other regional Māori radio stations. Lacking state funding, they used outdated equipment discarded by mainstream radio stations. Many were staffed by energetic rangatahi (young people), and some relied on employment schemes to pay and train staff. Later, these young enthusiasts were hailed for their professionalism as broadcasters.

Radio terms

Aratuku: frequency bands, for example AM, FM, UHF.

Hōtaka: a radio or television programme.

Hunga pāpāho: the media, including all forms of broadcasting and the press.

Kaipāho: a person who broadcasts on the radio or television.

Pāho: to broadcast on radio.

Whakapaoho: to broadcast signals.

Te Reo o Raukawa in Ōtaki went on air part-time in 1985. Tautoko Radio in Mangamuka, Northland, and Radio Ngāti Porou in Ruatōria, East Coast, followed in 1987. Te Toa Takitini was established as a dedicated station for Ngāti Kahungunu, and given a home and support systems by Te Tairāwhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne, where its founder, Joe Te Rito, headed the Department of Māori Studies. This station focused on gathering the iwi’s remaining native speakers and bringing them to the microphone, using idiomatic language, and carefully recording and archiving many hours of material.

New Zealand on Air – Irirangi te Motu

In 1989 the government established the New Zealand Broadcasting Commission, which later became New Zealand on Air – Irirangi te Motu. In 1990, in response to pressure from iwi, New Zealand on Air agreed to establish iwi radio and provide funding for staff, overheads, and transmitters and studio equipment. Under this policy iwi stations burgeoned throughout the country, with more than 20 stations eventually operating. Māori saw this development as major progress towards the dream of an iwi-based and -owned radio network covering districts with a significant Māori population.

Funding and technical challenges

The new stations struggled to survive in their formative years. Budgets did not cover all outgoings, and maintaining the enthusiasm of volunteer staff was a constant challenge. Adequate staff training and professional career paths were never established for iwi radio stations due to the low funding levels. Three of the stations broadcast on AM frequencies, which entailed running costs up to $100,000 a year higher than FM stations, but were funded at the same flat rate.

Te Māngai Pāho

In 1993, as a result of undertakings given by the Crown in Waitangi Tribunal cases, Te Māngai Pāho, a Māori broadcasting commission, was established. It became the conduit for the annual funding of iwi radio. Funded stations were required to broadcast at least a stipulated amount of quality Māori language.

Māori Media Network

In 1994 Māori Media Network, a national advertising sales bureau, was established by Ngahiwi Apanui, the manager of Radio Ngāti Porou. The major shareholders in the company were the iwi radio stations.

‘Resounding from the echoing cliffs’

In 2020 there were 21 iwi stations around the country – the resilient, iwi-based network dreamed of by its pioneers, listeners and supporters. Māori were able to hear the Māori language spoken in the context of the life of their communities, at any hour of the day. The indigenous language was present, broadcasting, in the words of an ancient proverb, ‘to the hills and resounding from the echoing cliffs’.

How to cite this page:

Piripi Walker, 'Māori radio – reo irirangi - The iwi radio network', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 June 2024)

Story by Piripi Walker, published 22 Oct 2014