Maurice puts the 'h' in wimp

Last updated 14:24 18/12/2009

Is there an 'h' in wimp? There should be.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has wimped - or should that be whimped - out over the Wanganui name debate.

In his most onerous task of the year, Williamson was asked to decide whether or not the Geographic Board's decision to change Wanganui's name to Whanganui should stand.

It was, admittedly, a political hot potato. On the one hand was the vociferous Wanganui Mayor and Radio Live talkback host Michael Laws, who wipped - sorry, whipped - not just his own community but the whole country into something of a frenzy over the whole issue.

It was, Laws opined, a "racist'' and "undemocratic'' decision by the Geographic Board, which had left his town "angry, upset, and disappointed''.

UMR conducted a poll of 750 people nationwide that found 62 per cent wanted the name kept the same.

Other towns around the country started worrying they, too, would get an "h". Whellington and Auchkland beckoned.

On the other side of the argument sat veteran activist Ken Mair, he of Moutoa Gardens fame, who was reasonably easy for Williamson to ignore, and the Maori Party, which was not.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia made it pretty clear that her party would be "disappointed'' - read bloody angry - if the town's name remained the same.

Wat to do, what to do? Whilliamson - sorry, I'm getting a little carried away - Williamson sat on it for as long as he could. He took advice. He received reports. He hui-ed and iwi-ed and probably hongi-ed. He took some more advice. He thought about it some more.

Then, finally, some three months after the Geographic Board's decision, Williamson decided ... well, he didn't decide. Both were OK, the Minister of Land Information decided. You choose, New Zealand.

Except for government departments and crown agencies, which will have to use the new politically correct spelling, everyone else can spell it how they like. So Transit NZ's official road signs will say Whanganui. But AA signs or town signs can say Wanganui.

Obviously over time the Government is hoping everyone will opt for either one spelling or the other.

This isn't decision-making, it's kicking for touch.

The irony is that Williamson, probably the driest Tory in the National caucus, wouldn't have a bar of Whanganui if it was just up to him. But it wasn't. H isn't a big letter (h is even smaller) but in the context of a town's name change it was writ rather large.

Yet in a way, the decision was apt, since it rather nicely sums up National's year: unable or unwilling to make tough decisions and hard calls. Too harsh? Maybe. But certainly it seems to me the "h" bomb was politics in miniature this year.

Keen to do the right thing, wanting to stay onside with the Maori Party, and willing to do "whatever works'', National has avoided any decision that polarises or provides winners and losers.

Just look at the Maori TV/Rugby World Cup compromise. The smacking compromise. The folic acid in bread compromise. The ETS/forestry deal compromise. If in doubt, kick for touch.

There's nothing wrong with compromise, of course. Often it's essential. But sometimes there just has to be a winner and a loser. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made. That's what we pay them for.

The H debate was surely one of those times.

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92 comments
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George   #1   02:33 pm Dec 18 2009

Does the ruling mean that if we wish we can spell the river Wanganui as well?

eddie   #2   02:34 pm Dec 18 2009

Is it just me, or is the Maori Party behaving like a spoilt child and National being a bad parent in giving them everything they want?...OK adding an 'H' isn't exactly ground breaking, but where will it stop?....the ONLY think I can see that Maouri have NOT got is seats on the new Super City, Pita already said that will be revisited if the Super City gets up and running.

And we all know that at some stage in the future, National will say NO, and then the tantrums will start....I hope it's sooner rather than later as National seem to be relying alot on the Maori Party, but at what cost of back room deals....how much will this cost the rest of NZ in the long run is anyones guess....what next?, Maori don't need to pay tax as there was no tax before the white man?....where will it end?!

Ben   #3   02:39 pm Dec 18 2009

The issue does not just sum up the National Party, it sums up NZ as a whole; that people could get so worked up over such a trivial matter and journalists could pour out so many asinine articles on the topic. The fact that we have one of the highest rates of child abuse in the world; that like Greece we are sinking under a mountain of debt; all this counts for nothing besides this ridiculous topic. It is almost as absurd as the circus taking place in copenhagen at the moment.

Dave T   #4   02:47 pm Dec 18 2009

Who gives a S*&@, far more important things going on at the moment

George   #5   02:54 pm Dec 18 2009

eddie (#2) : "at some stage in the future, National will say NO, and then the tantrums will start"

Maybe that's JK's plan.

What do we all think when we see a spoilt brat having a meltdown? Basically that the little bugg*r needs a good walloping (oops - sorry - a really stern talking to).

And so once the tantrum starts the parent can start dishing it out safe in the knowledge that everyone thinks the brat's got what's coming, and no one will step in to help.

Just a thought. Pita and Tariana take note.

Brett   #6   02:56 pm Dec 18 2009

No winners, no losers. Sounds just like the PC crap schools are teaching our kids. What a cop out.

kp   #7   02:56 pm Dec 18 2009

Nice to see Mair and Maori party are keen to kick up such a fuss about an "H” I would have thought that more important issues would occupy their time like the gang problem and high number of kids murdered in the city. Guess they have their priorities. The local people voted overwhelmingly not to change the name; a politically loaded geographic board and a spineless PC government should butt out. I had hoped we would see the end of this crap once Labour were booted out.

Ben #2   #8   02:57 pm Dec 18 2009

Interesting read C(h)olin.

Sorry I couldn't help myself.

In some respects Key (and National as a greater party) are remindig me of Rudd here in Aus. Wanting to keep in the middle of the road, appease all sides and keep up the record popularity.

I liked that Labour stood for something in its last government and had quite a clear vision of what they wanted to do. Obviously it wasn't a vision the majority of NZ believed in and it was rejected but I appreciate I knew where they stood.

National has a chance at 2011 to do the same when its promises expier from the last election but I wonder will they actually carve out an agenda or just keep going down the middle of the road.

Mike   #9   03:08 pm Dec 18 2009

It symbolises labour lite to perfect - when asked to decide they sit on the fence. Whimpy is right

glass half full   #10   03:15 pm Dec 18 2009

What a bunch of plonkers! My wish for 2010 that politicians focus on the stuff that matters but with a easily distracted Government in charge there isn't much of a likelihood of that! I think you have mentioned in previous blogs Colin that National was in danger of getting too involved in the political sideshows. Interestingly those around me who voted for change are rather dissappointed with the Nats performance so far......


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