Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika

Celebrating 25 years on the air

  • Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o Te Ika - Wellington

    Piripi Walker (right) and Tama Te Huki in the Te Upoko o Te Ika studio on its first day of broadcast in 1987.

Celebrating 25 years on the air

Using a borrowed transmitter positioned on Mt Victoria and broadcasting from a condemned building in Wakefield Street, Maori language radio station Te Reo Irirangi Maori o Te Upoko o Te Ika began broadcasting in 1987 to listeners in Wellington city.

Emerging from several pilot broadcasts in the mid 1980s, Te Upoko heralded a new era in radio in Aotearoa by aiming at a Maori audience. Establishment of the station fulfilled the dream of its founders, Nga Kaiwhakapumau i Te Reo (the Wellington Maori Language Board), that local radio would carry the language and culture to urban whanau and act as a hub at the centre of Maori language revitalisation.

Today Te Upoko is predominantly a Maori language, issues and information radio station and can be heard on 1161 AM. Its broadcasts appeal to a whanau audience attracted by te reo Maori and tikanga in discussion, news, current affairs, interviews, and music.

Long time advocate of the Maori language and researcher of traditional Maori literature, Piripi Walker (Ngati Raukawa) was a driving force behind the establishment of Te Upoko.

From the early, heady days of the station’s life, Piripi could be found sitting behind the mic, bringing the morning talk show to listeners. In 1991, he hung up his earphones and became a Trustee and Secretary of the Board of Te Upoko o Te Ika Charitable Trust, the body that owns and operates the station on behalf of Wellington’s Maori community and marae.

Piripi is incredibly passionate about the preservation and promotion of te reo and was one of the key motivators behind legislation in the 1980s that established te reo as an official language. He now works as an editor, translator, and writer.

Recently Te Upoko celebrated its 25th birthday with a month-long celebration. The past 25 years have seen the station go through some difficult times but for the last three years, according to Piripi, “it’s been in a good state”.

“We realised after a few years in business that we needed financial guidance so in the early 1990s we went looking for an accountancy firm. We needed a firm that was not just careful but that understood the ‘hurly burly’ of radio station life where some patience is required! We found Markhams and they were excellent. In fact, as soon as we got on board with them, business started to go more smoothly,” says Piripi.

Understanding the intricacies of working with Te Mangai Paho, the Crown entity established to make funding available to the national network of 21 Maori radio stations and other Maori language media, also needed to be understood fully by any company working with the station.

“Markhams was instrumental in helping us navigate working with a government agency and in refining our reporting systems. They have been exceptionally good. With their help, we developed new systems such as four-weekly financial reports for all aspects of the business that are still used today. These systems give us a snapshot of how everything’s performing and we can easily get a handle on how we’re tracking,” says Piripi.

Three years ago the station’s studio equipment received a major upgrade and Piripi says they are preparing for a major transmission upgrade in 2013.

“Currently the reception is not the best and we are in the process of negotiating with Te Mangai Paho for funding to upgrade the transmission. Markhams will be very involved in this and in the other plans for the station’s future.”


Published Winter 2012.

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