Dave Armstrong: A road by another name might say something about our confidence
OPINION: The good people of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) probably thought they were doing Kapiti residents a favour by building a brand new expressway. But the new road has opened up a can of worms over what to rename the old one.
"PC gone haywire" said one grumpy Kapiti resident about the seven new Maori road names that will replace the current main road. And he's dead right. How can a middle-aged, Pakeha baby boomer like me be expected to pronounce a complicated Maori name such as Katu Road?
First of all I have to get out of my car or my bar and think about how about on earth I might pronounce the syllable "ka". Then I have to wonder about all the weird ways that I might have to pronounce "tu". Then I have to join them together. This "katu" business is far too hard.
Outraged Kapiti residents all the way from Piecock to Paraparam have been complaining about the complicated new road names that refer to once-prominent local Maori.
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Surely we could replace these unpronounceable Maori names with simple English ones? How about naming a road after that famous pioneering Raumati piano tuner, St John Majoribanks Cholmodeley-Featheringstonehaugh, who migrated here from Worcestershire? Easy.
A road named after that well-known Waikanae barmaid of Irish descent, Siobhan Caoimhe Niamh O'Coughlan, who ran the first ceilidh in the area, would be so much easier to pronounce than massively long Maori tongue-twisters like "Unaiki". It's NZTA gone haywire.
If the beautiful suburb of Whitby can rely on kitsch easy-to-say English names that relate to Captain James Cook, such as Sailmaker Close (that's pronounced "close" not "close"), why can't the rest of the coast follow suit? Surely Kapiti residents would prefer simple maritime Whitby-inspired names for their road, such as Boatswain Gunwale Fo'c's'le Place, than something long and difficult like Hokowhitu?
Road names should tell locals something about their area. That's why we already have such beautiful-sounding names in the region such as Main Road and Main Street. When I hear the name "Transmission Gully" I never think of massive buzzing electricity pylons sitting astride a piece of tarmac built over a swamp. Instead I imagine gorgeous native flora and fauna all living in peace as silent eco-friendly cars gently glide by. Don't you?
And surely we need names that reflect the area as it is today instead of harking back to history. Kapiti Coast is becoming increasingly famous for its transport challenges, and the names should reflect that. Congestion Crescent, Road Rage Drive, Snafu Ave, Blackspot Corner, Boondoggle Street and Closed Road Close would inform drivers of what they were about to experience far more than naming the road after some nice old guy who founded Waikanae.
I pity the poor car commuters who have to drive in and out of their region every day, with all its hassles, so the roads should remind them of their sacrifice. In fact, let's rename the region Car Pity.
The trouble with these new names is that they don't reflect our culture. Pakeha New Zealanders have a long and proud tradition of pretending we are bilingual. We turn up to public events and say a quick "kia ora", or even do a haka if we win a medal, then the unwritten, unsaid rule is that we revert back to English. That's how we've managed to dominate national and local politics for over 200 years. But these damned road-builders are changing the rules.
You can't turn on radio or TV nowadays without hearing Maori correctly pronounced, especially by young people, and it's making us older Pakeha insecure. Even worse, when we see guys like that young Jack Tame not only pronouncing Te Reo correctly but using it in context, we start learning it as well.
What next? Bilingual road signs? Completely bilingual towns? Kids who are confident in both languages? Improved race relations? Better cultural understanding?
Such talk is not just PC gone haywire, it could change our country and show the world we are a confident Pacific nation that respects its Polynesian roots far more that its outdated colonial past. It's got to stop. God Defend Gnu Zeeland.
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