Would a rōhi by any other name smell as sweet?

16/09/2021

The Māori Party has launched a petition to have New Zealand’s name officially changed to Aotearoa:

Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer are also petitioning for Te Reo Māori names of all towns, cities and place names to be restored by 2026.

Their petition was launched Tuesday, the second day of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori/Māori Language Week.

“Our petition calls on Parliament to change New Zealand to Aotearoa and begin a process, alongside whānau, hapū and iwi, to identify and officially restore the original Te Reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places right across the country by 2026,” said Waititi.

“Tangata whenua are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored. It’s the 21st Century, this must change.” . . .

Mangling and bastardising is not confined to Maori names and will continue whether or not Maori names are adopted.

Putting that aside, I support the idea of a referendum on whether our country is named Aotearoa or New Zealand and if that was the only option I’d vote for Aotearoa.

Yes, the early Maori settlers didn’t have a concept of the country as a whole nor did they have a name for it, but Aotearoa has been commonly used for a very long time and it is distinctively ours. Shallow it might be, it’s also alphabetically advantageous to have your country’s name start with an A than an N.

But if we’re also being asked to change the names of all towns, cities and other places, I wouldn’t.

Karl du Fresne has a better idea:

. . . How about this for a rule of thumb? We should retain or restore the Maori names of everything that existed pre-colonisation and for which Maori had their own established nomenclature. That includes geographical features such as mountains, lakes, rivers, coastal features and islands – yes, even the North and South Islands (Te Ika a Maui and Te Wai Pounamu respectively) and Stewart Island (Rakiura).  This wouldn’t require a seismic adjustment because many are referred to by their Maori names anyway – even some that were once known by English names, such as Mt Taranaki/Egmont.

But for everything created post-colonisation and given an English or European name, the status quo should prevail unless the people decide otherwise. This would acknowledge both the Tangata Whenua and the Tangata Tiriti (i.e. non-Maori), but wouldn’t preclude the citizens of any locality from deciding to ditch their English place name in favour of a Maori one. I for one would rather live in Ngamotu than New Plymouth and Taitoko rather than Levin.

The bottom line in all cases is that decisions should be made democratically, not imposed by the political elite or the raucous proponents of identity politics.

Detractors will argue that there are far more important issues that need addressing. They are right but most of us are capable with dealing with more than one thing at a time.

Names are important. Shakespeare’s Juliet asked if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and Anne Shirley (she of Green Gables) said it wouldn’t if it was called a skunk cabbage.

While it’s going to far to say New Zealand is a skunk cabbage of a name, it’s a long way from a rose, or rōhi.

The Maori Party is doing the right thing by launching a referendum that allows all of us to have a say but they need to word it carefully.

If they want to change the country’s name they should ask the questions so that people can opt for Aotearoa without also having to opt for all the other place name changes as well. I think enough people might be persuaded to let go of New Zealand but wholesale name changes for towns, cities and other places is much less likely to gain majority support.

But the petition is here and the party has made the mistake of requiring people to support or oppose name changes for the country and all other places. I’d have signed it if I could support the change to Aotearoa but not all the other changes.


Who’s name is it?

03/08/2021

A column by National’s Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith on our country’s name resulted in an inundation of correspondence:

“The overwhelming reaction to my stance on the matter was incredibly positive from both those who want to retain New Zealand as our name and those who would like it changed to Aotearoa.

“What impacted me the most was the sheer number of people who expressed thanks that I was advocating for New Zealanders to be involved in making this decision. They told me they feel the Labour Government have been arrogant in changing it de facto without any public discussion.

“In my opinion piece I did not argue either for or against a name change. I believe that should not be up to politicians to decide. I argued for a conversation about it.

“Now, having heard from so many Kiwis, I am arguing for more. I say, the Government must put it to a referendum.

“The strength of feeling associated with this subject, no matter the perspective, necessitates that the Government must take it to the people as National did with the flag. Furthermore, Labour must be willing to accept the result as National did when New Zealand voted to retain the flag.

“Surely, Labour must be willing to listen to the people of New Zealand on this. They cannot go on thinking they are more enlightened and know better than the people they govern. They cannot go on demonising those who disagree with them.

“National says listen to the people and put it to a vote. Should we be New Zealand or Aotearoa?”

In the column which precipitated the correspondence, Smith said:

. . .Now, I am not seeking to make a judgement call about whether we should change our name or not. That is neither here nor there. I am simply giving voice to the argument that perhaps before the shift began to be put in motion, New Zealanders themselves should have been consulted.

It is presumptuous and disrespectful to make a decision of such cultural importance for the country without engaging all who live there. . .

As I see it, there is no right or wrong perspective. However, it is wrong for a public service and Government to decide a way forward with no regard for how New Zealanders think or feel about it. . .

Who’s name is it?

It’s the country’s name. It belongs to the country and by extension all its people. If it’s going to be changed, it should be at the will of the people through a referendum  not by stealth by politicians or bureaucrats.


Stop name change by stealth

27/04/2021

People often have different names – the legal one and one or more different one/s they are called.

The alternatives might be diminutives of their given name or nick names.

Countries too might be called by shortened versions of their names and some have changed theirs.

Time takes care of the confusion. Iran used to be Persia, Zimbabwe was once Rhodesia and I only remember Vanuatu used to be the New Hebrides because I had a pen friend there when I was a child.

Whether or not they change, countries usually have only one official name but New Zealand now seems to have three – New Zealand, Aotearoa New Zealand and Aotearoa.

Some countries have changed their names after wars or coups, but they can take place by the agreement of their citizens.  New Zealand’s name appears to be changing by stealth.

Some politicians and many in the media are using Aotearoa New Zealand, or Aotearoa.

I am not averse to changing our country’s name and if those three were the options I’d opt for Aotearoa, preferring a total change rather than the too-long and double-barrelled bob each-way alternative.

But I am opposed to change by stealth.

If we’re going to change the country’s name, let’s be open about it. Have a discussion, put it to a vote if necessary, but let’s not do it by stealth.


Go all the way to Aotearoa

31/01/2019

Danny Tahau Jobe has launched a petition to  add Aotearoa to our country’s official name.

. . . “Official documents of national identity, birth and citizenship certificates, passports and money-notes have Aotearoa and New Zealand together as the names of the country,” Danny Tahau Jobe’s petition states.

“Only ‘New Zealand’ has official status. Both names together will officially confirm/enhance nationhood and uniqueness in the world.” . . 

I was listening to Peter Williams on Magic Talk yesterday when this topic came up for discussion and was pleasantly surprised that the majority of callers were in favour of a change.

But if we’re going to change the name of our country, let’s not muck around adding Aotearoa to New Zealand.

Let’s go all the way and change it to Aotearoa.

If we add a five or six syllables (depending on how it’s pronounced) to the three we’ve already got, most will shorten it, using one name or the other and those unfamiliar with te reo are much more likely to opt for New Zealand than Aotearoa.

I am in favour of a change but my preference is Aotearoa by itself.

The petition is here.


We are sailing . . .

08/09/2013

My parents met because of Dad’s love of sailing.

He was pulled out of the water after his yacht capsized by a man who became a friend. The friend’s wife was a friend of my mother’s and arranged a blind date for the couple who became my parents.

My brothers followed Dad’s love of sailing. I didn’t as a participant but do take an interest as a spectator and am looking forward to the America’s Cup race series which starts this morning.

For all the fuss off the water and the criticism that it’s not so much sport as competition for lawyers, and the two-race penalty imposed on Oracle which gives Emirates Team New Zealand a head start in the best-of-17 series, the America’s Cup is still a yacht race and it starts today.

Quintin Hogg, guest posts at Keeping Stock on the race and writes:

The cup has for me been an emotional rollercoaster.  Despair in 1987.  Hope in 1992, Joy in 1995 and 2000.  Anger, later on, in 2000. Despair again in 2003 and 2007. And now hope again in 2013.
The most interesting feeling is dread.  I don’t know who is faster of the two boats that contest the Americas’ Cup on Sunday. . .
Oracle is said to be fast.  I know that Aotearoa is fast.  The telemetry data from their races is available online.  We will only know on Sunday who is faster.. .

. . . My hope is an evenly contested match with ETNZ beating Oracle on the water and leaving the shenanigans that have been recorded elsewhere behind.  And if ETNZ wins then “yahoo” for two or three days and then the hard work begins to build an event. 

If ETNZ are not successful well they deserve congratulations.  They have been innovative and creative. They have been an advertisement for NZ beyond anything we have previously had including the AB’s.

My heart says ETNZ will win.  My head would like to.

Yeah, me too, with all fingers and toes crossed.


Stamps from Aotearoa to Zeeland

05/08/2008

New Zealand Post is providing the chance for a (t is for) tiki tour through New Zealand culture history, heritage and kiwiana with its latest issue of stamps.

The 26 stamps go from A is for Aotearoa through G for the Good Night Kiwi (you’ll have to be old enough to remember when TV stopped transmission over night for that one); and S is for southern cross to Z is for Zeeland.


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