A woman is shocked after being involved in a verbal conflict with a teller at a Whakatane bank earlier this week.
Ripeka Lessels entered the Credit Union Central Kopeopeo branch to withdraw money, writing her withdrawal slip in Maori.
A conflict between Ripeka and the teller then occurred, after she was asked to rewrite the slip in English.
“The teller insisted I write it in English, which I declined to do as Maori is an official language,” says Ripeka.
The manager of the branch was contacted shortly after the incident occurred, and a video of the argument was posted to Facebook where it became viral.
“I was shocked that in this day and age, and in a community that has the highest population for native Maori speakers alive, that this blatant discrimination occurred where an official language of New Zealand was not allowed.”
She says the incident highlights a need for all banks in New Zealand to review their current standards and ensure they recognize all official languages.
Credit Union Central operations manager Matthew Heke says he is disappointed in the incident.
“It is not something that would normally be said and unfortunately it's highlighted the need for our staff to be upskilled on our official languages and Treaty obligations.”
“We are currently dealing with the situation itself and making contact with Ripeka, bringing her on to upskilling our own staff on being more sensitive and responsible on our official languages, the Treaty obligations and how best to move forward.”
Matthew says there is no current policy within Credit Union Central which rejects the use of any of New Zealand's official languages in the bank.
“It's the law, it's used in Parliament, it's used in the Courts, it's up to us to provide appropriate training or translators if need be.”