Maori names can be a driving force towards recognising history
Last week, talkback lines and social media comment sections were alight with responses to an article published in the Dom Post, about three Kapiti men who were disgruntled with the proposed renaming of the Paekakariki to Peka Peka section of State Highway 1.
The 18-kilometre stretch is set to be decommissioned and replaced by the Peka Peka Expressway, and the Kapiti District Council recognised an opportunity to honour historic Maori leaders. The council created a working party of local iwi representatives and historians to come up with seven new road names, drawing on historic figures and groups from the Kapiti district for their inspiration, including Ngati Toa chief Ropata Hurumutu, and leader Kahe Te Rau-o-te-rangi, who was one of only five women to sign the Treaty of Waitangi.
These were the suggestions proposed by the working party: Hurumutu Road, Hokowhitu Road, Rauoterangi Road, Kakakura Road, Unaiki Road, Katu Road, Matene Te Whiwhi Road.
What’s of note, and what the papers deemed newsworthy, is the response from a handful of the 400 local submissions regarding the road name changes.
For three of those submissions, the words were considered too hard to pronounce; the Maori names were an attempt to maintain political correctness; and the names were “meaningless” to the general public.
These voices count as a small proportion of the total submission response, and for many locals the frustration mostly lay in the potential for confusion that comes from dividing one stretch of road in to seven. Still, this article reminds us of the members of our community who don’t share a value for the Tangata Whenua heritage of our country.
The Maori history of New Zealand is not an add-on, it makes up the majority of the actual peopled history of New Zealand.
Tikanga Maori offers a philosophical, cultural, and physical inheritance that exists nowhere else in the world, that one or two generations cannot afford to squander. Reading through the description of the chiefs, leaders and soldiers after whom the roads are named leaves you inspired by the rich cultural heritage that tangata whenua have retained. The emphasis on whakapapa (genealogy) and kaitiakitanga (stewardship of the land) is one that we can all learn from.
If the names are too complicated, this is our opportunity to learn new vowel sounds. If there’s confusion brought about by breaking one road in to seven sections, this is our opportunity to further expand our awareness of the richness and historical significance of the Kapiti region. If this is a history that people don’t care to remember, this debate serves as a reminder of the need for our educators to give proper context to the place our children have grown up and inherit from us.
Renaming these roads is a part of reclaiming the full history of this land, and will hopefully see Te Reo driven further up in our common lexicon for years to come.
This guest blog was written by Communications Intern Olivia Burne, as part of her placement with Maxim Institute.