To some "ARYAN1" is a clear message inciting racial hatred.
But to Upper Hutt mother Lisa Marie Thompson, it is nothing more than a personalised licence plate displaying the initial and surname of her former boyfriend – Andrew Ryan.
Ms Thompson was surprised when the inadvertent nod to Adolf Hitler's master race sparked a complaint to the Transport Agency from an offended motorist.
"This is really offensive, for pretty obvious reasons," the complainant wrote. "How can somebody even have a plate like this approved? I am baffled."
However, transport officials are refusing to have the plate withdrawn, saying it would breach Ms Thompson's rights – despite the obvious association of the "Aryan" with "white supremacism".
Ms Thompson, 32, of Birchville, is the registered owner of a 1993 Ford Falcon. She paid about $700 four years ago for the "ARYAN1" personalised plate. She and Mr Ryan are no longer together.
Asked why she chose a message that could be read as a tribute to the Nazi regime, which murdered millions in the Holocaust, Ms Thompson said: "Why did I do it? Because it's the name of my ex-boyfriend."
She had no intention of trading it in now she was aware of the significance of the word Aryan. "I'll look it up in the dictionary and see what it says, but I've had it for years and I don't see the problem with it. It would be no different to having `Maori Pride'.
"It doesn't really bother me."
Ms Thompson said she was not racist and had not received a complaint about the personalised plate before.
NZTA said white supremacism theories and beliefs – associated with the word "Aryan" – were considered offensive by many, but the Bill of Rights Act guaranteed people's right to express themselves. "On its own it is simply a name and I believe it would require some other words, actions or gestures to be inciting.
"NZTA finds racism and racist speech as abhorrent as all right-thinking New Zealanders [do], which is why this was not an easy decision to make. However, we consider that the original decision not to require the surrender of the plate was correct."
Wellington Regional Jewish Council chairman David Zwartz said the plate showed racial identification and probably expressed a belief in racial superiority. "But it isn't a direct threat to Jewish people."
Mass murder, obscenities, threats against the police and messages promoting drug use have all been declared off limits by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
But apparent references to the Holocaust have been ruled okay.
The NZTA has the power to pull personalised plates from cars if they are deemed offensive.
Plates that have been deemed too offensive include: DRGDLR, QUICKE, 18750 (American slang for police murder), 4QANC, 50KILA, H8ACC, HOBNGR, JAPSUX, KCUFME, MDAFKR, OLDKNT, PIZZDA, SIKCNT, TAMPON, TBAGGD and ZYKLON (Zyklon B gas was used in WW II gas chambers).
NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said all applications for personalised plates were made through Personalised Plates Ltd.
The company and NZTA had agreed on guidelines to help avoid offensive plates being issued.
The criteria included messages that were abusive, derogatory, obscene, profane and promoting violence; or that demonstrated discrimination or bias against race, religious or ethical belief, ancestry, place of origin, age, citizenship, sexual origin, family or marital status, and disability or handicap.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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