A Christchurch restaurant offering free Māori lessons is being forced to expand its programme after more than two and a half thousand people registered their interest in the first lesson.

Anton Matthews, owner of Fush Restaurant in Wigram, was pleasantly surprised by the response. Matthews, who identifies with the Te Rarawa iwi, regularly speaks Māori with his staff and offers menus in both English and Māori.

“They’re interested. They want to learn; they want to be able to help their kids with their homework. They have realised there is nothing to fear,” he said. “I never ever thought in Christchurch of all places we would get this sort of response but we have, and I’m so chuffed.”

The original plan was to run one-hour sessions on Monday evenings at the restaurant – however, demand has forced Matthews to move the venue to the school hall of Christchurch Boys High School. The Fush food truck, the Little Fush Waka, will serve fried chicken and chips.

“For me as Māori, it makes me incredibly proud and excited to think that our native tongue will be commonplace in restaurants, supermarkets and playgrounds.”