Teenager calls for Wellington street name change to honour Ukraine war efforts

7:02 pm on 16 November 2022
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Fake blood was spattered on a sign outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington earlier this year in protest of the war in Ukraine. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

As tensions escalate in the Russo-Ukrainian War, one young New Zealander says Aotearoa should be doing more to condemn the conflict.

Jasper House, 14, from Whakatāne has contacted the prime minister and other officials, asking them to rename a road in Karori, Wellington.

"What I'd like to be done is to change the name of a section of Messines Road," he said.

"The section between Tiro Street and Plymouth Street to 'Volodymyr Zelensky Way' or 'Zelensky Way', because that part of the street has the Russian Embassy for New Zealand on it."

House wants the street where the Russian Embassy is located renamed after the Ukrainian president, so any mail addressed to the embassy would be a reminder of the war.

And, despite there being no footpaths, he also called for a new pedestrian crossing to be painted in front of the embassy, in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

"So I thought I might just add it in as another option in case the government thought that that would be a bit too on the nose," he said.

"If you go onto Google maps and look at it, there is absolutely no reason for it to be installed there because there's not even a footpath on either side. There's a little bit of symbolism behind it that I thought of, it's there to underline the pointlessness of war."

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Ukraine supporters protesting outside Russian embassy in Wellington in March this year. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Jasper contacted multiple ministers and the Wellington mayor and deputy mayor but was yet to hear back from them.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta brushed off the suggestion when asked by RNZ.

"Oh look I'm not getting involved in that, that's not a matter for my attention."

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said it was a decision for the city council.

"I'll be interested to hear what Wellington City have got to say about that," he said.

"I certainly support us doing what we can for the people of Ukraine, I guess my focus is on the kinds of things we announced (on Monday) about getting resources on the ground."

Wellington councillor Nicola Young

City councillor Nicola Young said there would be plenty of difficulty in changing the name of the street. File photo. Photo: Sharon Brettkelly

City councillor Nicola Young said she thought it was great fun when a prankster changed the street's sign to read Zelensky Way earlier this year, but said there was a lot of red tape to changing street names officially.

"We normally don't name things after people until they're dead because sometimes people's careers change. I'll give you an example, and this is nothing about Mr Zelensky, but you know Mugabe when he came into power in Zimbabwe was a hero - and then he went from hero to zero."

Young said it was also important not to forget the thousands of New Zealanders who were injured and the 700 who died in the Battle of Messines - which the road was named after.

Legislation meant blue and yellow stripes would not technically be a pedestrian crossing, possibly causing confusion and safety issues.

On the streets of Karori, most locals spoken to by RNZ agreed with the sentiments behind House's suggestions.

"Totally, we need to show our support for them. I think people do need to step up a bit and just show that we're not going to tolerate this," one man said.

Some said there was merit to both the existing and the suggested names.

"Well seeing the Russian Embassy is up there, that could be a good thing," a woman said, "(But) Messines is historical too, I think there's value in that name as well."

Another man said the decision should be left to local Ukrainians, with local Russians also given a chance to have input.

"If I was Ukrainian, I'd be into it."

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