Little town with a big image problem

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009

Many in the town, including some within the bitterly-divided Tararua District Council, want the Viking image thrown out - saying the warrior iconography does not suit the town.

Signs at either end of the town clearly identify with the Viking symbol. The word "Farvell" farewells travellers heading north or south.

Dannevirke's Promotions and Development Society wants to cement the town's Scandinavian heritage with a 10 metre-tall concrete statue at the southern end of the town.

Only one submission was received when the council notified resource consent for the statue - and that submission supported the proposal - but the council wants the statue's backers to survey residents to demonstrate they have a mandate.

Many locals - including Maori leaders - are dead set against a pagan statue on the high street.

Opponents say portraying a warrior race renowned for pillaging, looting, and carrying off women would be culturally insensitive and would distort the history of the town.

Tararua District Council governance manager Richard Taylor said resource consent for the statue was still to be considered.

"It has been a contentious issue ... coming up with what the community will accept. This town is divided on the Viking issue as whether it is an accepted icon."

He said the Promotions and Development Society would have to prove it had majority community support before the council would agree to take over the lease for the Ontrack-owned land where the statue is proposed to go.

Dannevirke community board member and member of the promotional group Ray Teahan said the Viking icon had to stay though he agreed the accompanying slogan "Take a liking to a Viking" should go.

Mr Teahan said like Ohakune's carrot and Paeroa's giant L&P bottle, Dannevirke's Viking caught the imagination of travellers.

"It is an image, a branding, a trademark. What is all the fuss about?"

Rangitane o Tamaki nui a Rua chief executive Stephen Paewai said the issue was that Vikings came and conquered, which was contrary to Maori history.

"They were known for what they did but we created a very peaceful settlement.

"Dannevirke should have a symbol but a neutral icon."

 

- The Dominion Post

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