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07 July 2018 | Diversity and Inclusion

Te reo puts team member in the spotlight

Learning to speak te reo Māori gave team member Ata Marsh a “sense of belonging” — and now it’s made her famous.

The much-loved checkout operator at The Warehouse store in Newmarket has been charming customers for years by chatting with them in te reo, but she managed to reach a whole new audience when she was featured on Stuff, 1 News, and Maori Television earlier this year.

The inspirational mother of four told reporters that customers are often “so happy” to hear her speak te reo that some even join in. “Some people haven’t heard it in a long time and reminisce with me, tell me how it takes them back.”

For others, she hopes that she will inspire them to learn the language. “[I hope] that every single customer that I’ve spoken te reo Māori to, I’ve planted a seed in them and maybe they could go to a wānanga and learn te reo Māori and be as passionate as I am about my language.”

For Ata, learning to speak te reo Maori is still a work in progress after she went on an immersive year-long course. “For me personally, being an older speaker, I don't absorb quite quickly as our young tamariki do, but kei te pai. I’m so passionate about te reo Māori nothing can stand in my way.”

That passion is evident to everyone who meets her. In fact, The Warehouse chief executive Pejman Okhavat says he’s been inundated by phone calls, letters, and emails about Ata since she joined the team nearly five years ago.

“Customers have reached out and shared their wonderful experiences with Ata — her great attitude and what a positive role model she is for the community.”

He said celebrating New Zealand’s Māori heritage was important to The Warehouse and we’re “extremely proud” to have Ata on the team.

Lastly, as Ata might say to one of our customers: ka kite anō (we’ll see you again soon!).

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