Broadcasting since 1982

September 12th, 2017 By Richard McIntosh

And you thought you’d missed it all

You were so busy getting on with your life, you were at work, you were at school, or maybe you didn’t live in Wellington so you didn’t hear the interviews, the commentary, the laughs and the talkback. Perhaps you just didn’t know about Radio Te Upoko O Te Ika or you didn’t bother tuning in because you couldn’t speak Māori. In any case you might think you’d missed it all, and you’d be quite wrong.

Piripi Walker and his team had it all recorded.

Te Upoko o Te Ika, Maori language radio station, Wellington.
Te Upoko o Te Ika, Maori language radio station, Wellington - Photograph taken by Merv Griffiths. Dominion post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1987/2071/8-F.

Reel-to-reel, cassettes, floppy disks, digital audio tape, CDs, you name it – the life of a radio station was preserved on all manner of formats. In 2007, Te Reo Irirangi O Te Upoko O Te Ika Trust donated over two thousand of these interviews recorded 1982-1995, to become one of the Alexander Turnbull Library’s biggest collections: Te Upoko O Te Ika Sound Recordings: Ref: OHColl-0937.

And now, thanks to Piripi and the Trust’s vision and the people of the Turnbull Library, a pilot of 71 of these interviews is to be streamed online worldwide, with more to follow.

A chance encounter

I’d only just started work at the National Library in the Public Programmes team when I first saw items from the oral history collections.

It was the day Prime Minister John Key cut the ribbon to open the newly refurbished building in November 2012 and was shown, during his tour of the ground floor, one of the three AV pods. These are built to sit comfortably in and view audio-visual material from the Library’s collections and elsewhere.

Prime Minister John Key sitting in an AV pod.
Prime Minister John Key has a go in our brand new AV pods. Photo: Mark Beatty.

Need more photos? Download opening day shots and much more.

Over his shoulder I saw several menu options displayed on screen, including Te Reo Rangatira. Here, five short excerpts of Te Reo Maori interviews with Sir John Turei and Dame Miria Simpson were presented, part of a collection of nine such interviews from Toby Mills’ Nga Morehu oral history collection.

Later, as I listened to each of them, a rush of different thoughts and emotions passed through me. I had been assured in my job interview just a short time before that, should I find a thing of interest to pursue within the definitions of the role, I should run with it.

And here it was! I set to work.

Linda Evans, Curator Oral History and Sound, hearing my plan to extend the selection of interviews on the AV pods, suggested I look at Te Upoko O Te Ika Sound Recordings for more material.

Expanding the selection

By July 2014 I’d secured Te Upoko o Te Ika Trust’s permission to present the interviews outside the reading rooms. After a lot of listening, talking on the phone to living interviewees or the families of those who’d passed on, searching the collections or asking families to supply images, up they went.

The AV pods now had six new interviews from Radio Te Upoko O Te Ika along with dozens more excerpts from the Nga Morehu Oral History Collection. Relatives of some of the interviewees were present for the launch. It was a lovely event.

HInehou and Hinekorangi  Broughton, pictured with Richard McIntosh, at launch of oral histories to AV pods.
Hinehou (l) and Hinekorangi (r) Broughton, pictured with Richard McIntosh, at launch of oral histories to AV pods 25 July 2014. They are listening to their father, Ruka Broughton, of radio Te Upoko O Te Ika, interviewing them as young children. Photo: Mark Beatty.

Voices from home

Hundreds of these interviews were conducted and broadcast in the interviewees’ first language, Te Reo. Listening in, one hears commentary on the cultural, political and sporting events of the day, but most significantly as far as I am concerned, one is immersed in the depth and variety of the language.

It is as dialectical as English within the island of Britain, to the extent of differing accents, grammar and words. I, a Pakeha, had learnt what I know of the language in the Far North, Taiamai, and hearing that dialect spoken – by Te Ringa Mangu (Dun) Mihaka for example – was like going home.

Lightbulb moment

It was then that the idea came to me – what was to prevent us streaming these interviews online outside the National Library reading rooms, effectively rebroadcasting them to the world? Many times, as I sat in that language classroom in Kaikohe, I had, as a pākehā, wondered how I could find people to listen to, who spoke in the manner of the area I lived in, the way Ruka Broughton, pictured below, spoke in the distinctive Whanganui way.

Photograph of Ruka Broughton.
Photograph of Ruka Broughton. Dominion post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-NZ Obits-Br-Broughton, Ruka.

It is this that leads me to imagine the amazing, if not revolutionary, potential the rebroadcast online of the voices of Radio Te Ūpoko O Te Ika could have for learners of the national language. If asked why I have driven the project to stream this collection online, that’s the reason.

Work of many people

There’s a particularly wonderful thing about the way this project has come together. It is a major piece of work which has demanded technical nous, exhaustive attention to detail and careful nurturing of relationships between Donor and Library and between elements of our own organisation. Yet none of this has ever appeared in a planning document – it has come to fruition as a result of the skill, dedication and belief of a large number of people who work at the Library and at the Trust.

To me, the voices of Radio Te Upoko O Te Ika are a great storehouse of politics and culture unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and a treasure of the diversity of Te Reo Maori as it is spoken in the different parts of the country. I am so excited that they’re about to be re-broadcast to the world, 24/7, and I can’t wait to see them being accessed through the portal at

Thanks to the vision and tireless effort of Piripi Walker and the Trustees and staff of Te Reo Irirangi o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika Trust, and the staff of Digital New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Visit the Te Ūpoko o Te Ika Sound Recordings collection page now and listen to an interview, Te Reo and English.

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18 September 2017 8:53am

Great work Richard! E mihi manahau ana ki a koe, koutou rā o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, tae noa rā ki ngā kaumātua i hopukina ā reo nei. He taonga mā ngā uri whakatipu.