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Waka Reo Winner’s Extra Prizes – Love and Language

Publicity Release
Thursday November 23 2006

Waka Reo Winner’s Extra Prizes – Love and Language

WAKA REO winner Zoe Rehu took away more than the $10,000 prize from the Maori Television show that challenges 14 strangers to live and learn on a marae.

The 19-year-old waitress from Taupo also left with two new loves in her life – learning reo Maori, and Jason Pehi (Ngai Tuhoe) of Temuka, who was her rival and eventual runner-up in the show.

WAKA REO chose a group of people from all over the motu, with little or no reo Maori, to live on a remote South Island marae together.

On arrival, they were given Maori names and thrown straight into full-immersion language learning, as well as being given physical tasks to complete.

With 14 people living so closely together, the show inevitably had dramas. One competitor had to take special leave to attend a court hearing about an abusive ex-partner, while another ‘marae mate’ rebelled and shaved his head.

Zoe (Ngati Tuwharetoa. Ngapuhi) also had to deal with the news that she was homeless after her flatmates were unable to keep the house they lived in without her rent.

But WAKA REO also led to close bonds, new friendships and even romance amid the rivalry.

After 13 weeks on the marae, it came down to two of the youngest contestants, Zoe and Jason, in the final.

Although Jason won the physical task – a canoeing race – it was Zoe who impressed the judges with her speech in reo Maori and took the $10,000 prize.

But Jason obviously didn’t bear a grudge over his loss. The two got together after the show ended and moved to Christchurch, where they are both studying Maori at college.

“Being on WAKA REO was an awesome experience,” says Zoe, who has spent some of her winnings on a computer and sound system. “Winning was the best moment for me, and the saddest moment was leaving the marae. We all got very close during our time there and still catch up when we can.

“WAKA REO changed me as a person. I learned a lot about myself and have realised how important reo Maori is to me, which is why I am continuing with it. It’s part of my life now.”

Whetu Fala, of Tahu Communications, which makes WAKA REO for Maori Television, says the win was well-deserved.

“It was all about giving the language a go, and that’s exactly what Zoe did,” she says. “She showed courage, consistency and a passion for learning. The win is well-deserved.”


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