Te Upoku o Te Ika : Wellington Maori Radio
Capital Maori Radio Station Turns 25
The “Big kid” of Maori language radio stations is turning 25 and the party is about to start.
Wellington’s Te Upoko o Te Ika 1161AM, the oldest Maori radio station in the country, had its first broadcast on May 4, 1987.
A week of on-air and off-air celebrations will begin later this month.
Former station manager Piripi Walker was a founder of Te Upoko, and was involved in the 1986 Treaty of Waitangi claim on the preservation of the Maori language.
In the fight for Maori-language broadcasting, the station’s organisers had been up against the belief that the language was dying out, Mr Walker says.
“It was a radical idea that the Maori language would be getting its own frequency … especially permanently.”
It was a no-holds-barred movement, including protests, street marches and an occupation, to get unfiltered Maori voices on the airwaves, he says.
Local iwi, including Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toa and Taranaki Whanui, have been involved with the support and direction of the station over the years. “We knew that it would change everything.”
Te Upoko is now one of 21 iwi radio stations operating nationwide, each with its own flavour and dialect, says current station manager Wena Tait.
“The network itself is becoming a lot stronger, and is contributing to the survival and revitalisation of the language.”
The station receives funding of $384,000 a year from Maori broadcasting agency Te Mangai Pao. The programmes music, talkback, storytelling, and live music shows are almost entirely in Maori.
A powhiri at Pipitea Marae on April 29 will kick off the celebrations, and the station will air interviews with special guests and historical broadcasts during the anniversary week.
Te Papa will also take part, hosting live acts of past and present Te Upoko guests.
A symposium on language revitalisation at Victoria University and a gala dinner will conclude the celebrations.
The birthday events are meant to thank the listeners and foster pride among staff, Mr Walker says.
He still has hopes for the future, including a “decent frequency”, but is proud of what the station has achieved.
“I think the station succeeded in becoming a loved station.”
© Dominion Post April 17, 2012.
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