Calling the tough but beautiful drive over the Rimutaka range a "hill" doesn't do it justice, a former Masterton mayor believes.
Frank Cody is calling for the Rimutaka Hill Road, as it is known, to be rebranded the Rimutaka Pass, as it meets every geographic and linguistic definition of a "pass", he says.
"It does warrant something more of a status than just calling it a hill."
Cody, 92, said the 555-metre summit between Upper Hutt and Featherston was listed on weather forecasting sites alongside other passes such as Lindis, Porters and Lewis. Like them, it was often closed by snow, and deserved the same status.
His years of voluntary work helping to acquire private land along the route for forest regeneration under public ownership gave him a strong feeling for the road, but recent calls by current Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson for the road to be promoted as a tourist attraction had prompted him to revive the renaming idea.
Thickening native bush along the route, and the spectacular views from the recently renovated summit viewing area, made the road deserving of a less "mundane" title, he said.
Reaction has been positive, including backing from Patterson and Wairarapa archivist Gareth Winter.
"I have long contended that we have the wrong way of looking at the hill road - that if we lived near Melbourne or somewhere it would be promoted rather than dreaded," Winter said.
Cody proposed the change some years ago to the New Zealand Geographic Board and was told consultation and backing was required from authorities such as South Wairarapa District Council and iwi.
South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples did not reject the idea but said thorough discussion had to come first in case the "pass" designation ended up putting people off. "But it's certainly more than just a hill."
She said the debate could be combined with consultation around a possible spelling change for the whole range, from Rimutaka to Remutaka, which the Rangitane iwi has called for.
A Geographic Board spokesman said the first step in any change would be to establish whether the "pass" designation referred to the road itself or to its highest point, currently known as the Rimutaka summit.
If it was the road, the district council would make the decision, but if it was the geographic feature, the board would be responsible.
The application process is detailed on the board's website.
- The Dominion Post
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