'They'll have no bloody idea' - bilingual signs on the West Coast

7:01 am on 26 September 2022
An example of the new kura signs being rolled out, at Karoro School on the southern side of Greymouth.

An example of the new kura signs being rolled out, at Karoro School on the southern side of Greymouth. Photo: LDR / Brendon McMahon

Bilingual road signs are coming to the West Coast, hot on the heels of school signs which are already being replaced to include the word 'kura'.

NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director James Caygill, in an update to the West Coast Regional Transport Committee, said the bilingual signs identifying schools were required when the existing signs needed to be replaced, or a new project was initiated.

Next, it would be starting consultation ahead of a rollout of the first tranche of bilingual road signs.

Some Māori-only signs were already in common use for this purpose - for instance 'marae'.

Caygill said initially, it would look at 'wayfinding' and roadworks signs, or even welcome signs.

"The consultation would be asking effectively if people would be preferring to see 'haere mai' or both."

Transport Committee and West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield was sceptical.

"Just explain this: we're going to have roadwork signs in Māori?" he asked.

Caygill said that might happen, but it had not been settled. The 'stop-go' signs used for roadworks would not be up for debate.

A lot of signs were photographic, without words. Where there were strong safety concerns NZTA saw no need to consult.

"The majority of the people in New Zealand don't speak Māori, so they'll have no bloody idea what [a sign] is trying to say," Birchfield said.

Committee member Peter Ewen said NZTA already had "some difficulty complying" with its own standards.

A "profusion" of signs at certain corners were a distraction for drivers, Ewen said.

Caygill said it was trying hard not to have more signs.

"That's not the point here, it's about what signs are where ... there will no doubt be interest."

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