A website for sending a warm ‘kia ora’ to a Queenstown retailer who called the common greeting “offensive” is gathering steam.
At last count the ‘Kindness of Kia Ora’ Facebook page by Angelo Braxton of Piha, Auckland, had 90 people signed up.
The page is amongst a storm of feedback generated by a about Queenstown BONZ owner Bonnie Rodwell’s reaction to an email which started with ‘Kia ora…”.
Travel New Zealand publisher Gary Cody had a sales representative send the BONZ retail office manager the initial ‘kia ora’ email requesting advertising support.
Rodwell replied: “Sorry but why do we need to be addressed with Kia Ora?
“Neither myself or [my office manager] speak Maori. Maybe more people would advertise with you if we were addressed with a little more respect.
“Whilst it may be a great government issue (and perhaps a little ‘in vogue’) some of us, in private businesses that support NZ, find it offensive.
“Whilst we have no issue with anything ‘Maori’ at all, we find it plain silly.”
A “gobsmacked” Cody – who says he can’t believe someone relying on tourism is offended by kia ora – is complaining to Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy about Rodwell’s reaction.
The controversy has erupted in the middle of Maori Language Week, and The Kindness of Kia Ora page says: “Bonnie Rodwell from BONZ seems to think her shunning of a warm te reo greeting is totally acceptable.
“Join us in sending Bonnie a KIA ORA, whether it be by postcard, email or phone,” the site says, with a link containing contact details for BONZ, which stands for Best of New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Herald – which picked up the story – today reports an iwi leader demoted from her job in the 1980s for using kia ora as a phone greeting is stunned some Kiwis remain annoyed at its use.
Ngati Whatua’s Naida Glavish was a Post Office telephone operator in 1984 when demoted for cheery greetings of kia ora – the action against her ignited an uproar and is regarded as an important moment in the revitalisation of te reo, the New Zealand Herald says.
Glavish today tells the Herald: “One hardly has to be fluent in te reo to get that kia ora is a respectful greeting.
“Not only is this woman’s thinking from the Dark Ages, it is foolish for someone in the tourism industry to underestimate the value Maori bring to putting New Zealand/Aotearoa on the world map.”
Some reaction from Mountain Scene scene.co.nz readers has been mixed – one wrote: “No brains at all, [Rodwell] sounds like a tea party american, if you’re not like me you just don’t matter.”
Another says: “Well done, Bonnie. In this age of political stupidity (oops, political correctness) I take my hat off to you for having the courage speak your mind. It matters not whether one agrees or disagrees with your message, in a free country we should all uphold your right to express your viewpoint.
“I sincerely hope the Race Relations Commissioner treats any complaint with the disdain it deserves.”
Rodwell, speaking to Mountain Scene earlier this week from her award-winning restaurant on the Gold Coast, said she doesn’t feel like kia ora is a phrase that needs to be used and abused.
“Why don’t they understand real Maoridom and stop using it as a tourism slang. I’ll always greet a Maori with kia ora.”