A HARBOUR rich in maritime tradition and history will be celebrated on July 7 as part of Maori Language Week.
Ancient stories will be told aboard the 105-year-old sailing ship the Jane Gifford as part of Voyager Maritime Museum’s events.
Visitors will be invited aboard the historic boat to explore Maori tales and place names on the Waitemata harbour.
The newly restored 80-foot scow is the last of its kind still operating in New Zealand.
It runs regular tours on the Mahurangi River but this will be the first time the boat has been used to pro- mote Maori language.
Te Wananga o Aotearoa sailing co-ordinator and Jane Gifford crew member Stuart Birnie is looking forward to the trip on July 7.
‘‘The Waitemata Harbour is rich in Maori maritime tradition and history,’’ he says.
The museum’s cultural mediator Haare Williams will host the hour-long sailings, sharing traditional stories of taniwha, as well as prophecies made long before settlers arrived in Auckland of a bridge built across the harbour.
Mr Williams says such stories play a key role in understanding Maori’s cultural heritage.
‘‘Storytelling is important because it brings the past into the present,’’ the former broadcaster who pioneered Maori radio says.
Mr Williams will also translate key places around the harbour, in keeping with the week’s theme of Maori names.
Mr Williams says he has seen huge improvements in the uptake of te reo since Maori Language Week first began in 1975.
He recalls a time when he worked as a journalist when Maori words had to be enclosed in brackets.
‘‘Now words like whanau are used widely in both English and Maori.’’
He says the fact that 68,000 non-Maori have taken up learning Te Reo is hugely encouraging.
Mr Williams grew up in remote New Zealand and was raised in the traditional Maori way. He did not learn English until he started school as an 8-year-old.
But he soon discovered a love for language through the oral arts of the marae, the Bible and later Shake- speare. He has since become a distinguished poet with work published in numerous books and exhibitions.
Mr Williams says learning to appreciate Te Reo is vital for New Zealanders because a lot of meaning contained in Maori words is often lost when translated into English.
‘‘We’ve got to come to an understanding of the nuances of phrases used in Maori and English so we can come to an understanding that draws on our bicultural history.’’
The museum’s Maori language trail will be open each day through the week and visitors of all ages can try their hand at te reo.
Setting sail: Visitors will get a chance to learn more about Maori legends and place names on board the Jane Gifford with Haare Williams.