Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika – E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award finalist

This story is one in a series profiling the eleven finalists in the inaugural E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award 2022 which recognises and celebrates inspirational community leadership.

E Tū Whānau kahukura are those people who support, encourage and strengthen whānau by modelling values, behaviours and actions that are positive ‘footprints’ that can be followed. 

Wellington’s Māori radio station, Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika (1161AM, 87.6FM), has a special place as a kahukura of iwi broadcasting. It was the first Māori station to go to air in 1987. As such, its history and whakapapa are strongly linked to the rise of Māori language usage throughout Aotearoa.

The station also has a long association with E Tū Whānau both as an individual station and as part of the wider Māori radio network. Over many years, the station has promoted non-violence and other key aspects of the E Tū Whānau kaupapa over the radio waves, via the E Tū Whānau Footy Show, and at in-person events across the Wellington region.

Whānau perform at a Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika event
Whānau perform at a Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika event

Te Upoko o Te Ika – exemplary kahukura leadership

Te Upoko o Te Ika showed exemplary leadership as an E Tū Whānau kahukura in 2021 by making a principled stand to boycott its much-anticipated live coverage of the city’s premier grade rugby final. This significant decision was taken because one of the teams playing in the final had been involved in multiple incidents of violent behaviour both on and off the field.

The E Tū Whānau Footy Show is the only station broadcasting Wellington club rugby matches. Te Upoko o Te Ika has been giving them live coverage for the last five years and the show has a strong following of local whānau. However, the decision to prioritise principle over popularity was made because the alleged incidents went against the values espoused by E Tū Whānau.

Their courageous decision, and the reasons for it, was well supported by the local rugby community and listener feedback was largely positive. It had even more impact when the story was covered in mainstream media.

The station’s manager Adrian Tangaroa Wagner said Te Upoko o Te Ika and the E Tū Whānau Footy Show were passionate about rugby and wanted to promote it “as much as possible”. He added that the station would not stand for violence in the sport which represents a direct contradiction to the kaupapa of E Tū Whānau and their aspirations for te mana kaha o te whānau – the power and strength of the whānau.

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