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Thames is still open for business despite the Coromandel being cut off. FILE PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Rage over ‘racist’ road names

District councillors against prioritising te reo names for local roads were told to “stop being racist” amidst heated discussions during Māori Language Week.
One line in Thames-Coromandel District Council’s new road naming policy was the cause of the rift that divided councillors either side of the peninsula.
In the policy under selection criteria, it was said that appropriate road names should consider the following criteria “in order of priority”. Topping the list was “a traditional or appropriate Māori name which is acceptable and approved by iwi in the rohe”.
But four of the five district community boards wanted to remove the words “in order of priority”, with Coromandel councillor John Morrissey saying some members believed it would give te reo “an edge” over a local name, an English name, or a commonly used name.
“Does that mean if a te reo name comes forward, as well as a couple of others, could it automatically make the name in te reo the preferred name to be used? Is that how you see it?” he asked council staff.
“If the local Māori name is appropriate then it should be used, no problems with that at all, but I didn’t want it to take precedence.”
Council’s new chief executive Aileen Lawrie said it wasn’t a cut and dried rule. “In the normal course of events, it looks to me like you would prioritise a Māori name that had been approved, but in circumstances where there might be a prevailing community interest, you wouldn’t necessarily have to run with that as a priority,” she said.
But Mayor Sandra Goudie and deputy mayor Murray McLean feared the four words would create an expectation. “Look at what your community boards said. Take it out. Don’t create an expectation,” Cr McLean said.
Thames Community Board – which includes councillors Sally Christie, Martin Rodley, and Robyn Sinclair – was the only board happy to leave the words in, and they stood by that decision.
Cr Sinclair called the discussion “silly”.
“Let’s stop being racist and just put the bloody thing in,” she said, while Cr Christie wanted a more inclusive outcome.
“Aotearoa New Zealand is changing and te reo is one of our official languages, and we’re just having that in the list,” she said.
“It’s just acknowledging they are mana whenua of this land and if we can find names that suit and are important… that would be really special.”
However, it was decided by a slim margin – five votes to four – to remove “in order of priority” from the statement. Instead, the policy will read: Appropriate names should consider the following criteria in no particular order of priority.
Those who voted against the motion were Sally Christie, Robyn Sinclair, Martin Rodley, and Gary Gotlieb.