Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) will be home to New Zealand’s first bilingual emergency service vehicles that will use the Māori and English languages

Brand new signage for a waka tūroro (ambulance) and waka patu ahi (fire appliance) was unveiled on Monday, February 23 at Gisborne. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori spearheaded this project to increase the visibility of te reo Māori .

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori said they believe that bilingual signage is important as it acknowledges the status of te reo Māori as an official language of New Zealand. Under the new Māori Language Strategy government departments and agencies are being asked to support the revitalization of te reo Māori. Bilingual services and signage are a critical part of this support.

“We acknowledge the commitment to bilingual signage shown by the Gisborne District Council," said Dr. Wayne Ngata,
Spokesperson for Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori. "With St John Ambulance Services and the New Zealand Fire Service, these vehicles set an example for other councils and government agencies to follow. These bilingual vehicles cater to the high proportion of Māori language speakers in this rohe – one in ten people in Te Tai Rāwhiti are Māori language speakers.”

New Zealand Fire Service is trialing bilingual signage on its fire appliances by adding translations of its current signage into te reo Māori. Te Tai Rāwhiti will be the trial rohe (region) where this signage will be seen on Gisborne fire appliances and some support vehicles. This initiative supports the current fleet of selected ancillary vehicles already displaying te reo Māori in other parts of the country.

St. John Ambulance Services will launch the first bilingual ambulance. These ‘Waka Tūroro’ will appear through Te Tai Rāwhiti. St John Ambulance Services are also embarking on a journey of developing a Māori language plan to develop strategies for using te reo Māori through their organisation.

New Zealand Police currently have a number of vehicles that carry safety messaging in te reo Māori in Te Tai Rāwhiti, and have vehicles across the country that carry the New Zealand Police tohu Māori (Māori language sign), and whakataukī (proverb) given to the organisation by the late Ngāti Porou leader Dr Apirana Mahuika. New Zealand Police are supportive of this initiative and are looking to increase the use of bilingual signage throughout the organisation, including on vehicles, according to the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.