'Word bank' of rejected te reo Māori street names not seen as helpful

10:50 am on 11 September 2023
Mahakipawa Rd in Havelock should be Mahakipaoa Rd.

Mahakipawa Rd in Havelock should be Mahakipaoa Rd. Photo: LDR / Stuff / Anthony Phelps

An idea to "word bank" rejected Māori street names for developers to "pluck" from when building future subdivisions misses the point, says an iwi still waiting on tohutō promised two years ago.

Iwi asked about te reo Māori options often offer names that honour the people, history and environment of the area, but they are not always the names selected by developers.

The Marlborough District Council's road naming committee has discussed creating a list of the rejected names that other developers can pull from in future.

But Rangitāne o Wairau general manager Corey Hebberd said naming a street in te reo Māori "needs to be more considered than plucking it from a list", as a second-hand name would likely be connected to a different place, not the street at hand.

"It needs to resonate with an area, it needs to speak to the whenua, it needs to speak to the stories of that area. Not just pick a generic name and see a name on a list and say, 'oh I like the sound of that'."

The idea surfaced at a road naming subcommittee meeting in March, where Rose Manor developers put forward Penrose Place and Berkley Close as their name options. Rose Manor had come under fire for road names that some councillors thought were too "colonial" in 2021.

Ngāti Kurī had suggested Tokomaru and Parenui as locally relevant names, adding if selected they would uplift te reo Māori in the region, the meeting's minutes said.

But the committee, made up of councillors Deborah Dalliessi, Sally Arbuckle, Brian Dawson and an empty iwi representative seat, said it was too late in the subdivision's development for such names to be added.

Māori street names in Marlborough.

Updating the signs is expected to cost $9000. Photo: LDR / Stuff / Anthony Phelps

Maybe road names should be circulated earlier in the process, the committee said, and resolved to consider it the next time the road naming policy was reviewed. Developers could be required to provide three names, one being te reo Māori, and names not used could be added to a list for future use, the committee suggested.

The committee asked council staff to make a point of engaging with iwi on possible names and themes earlier in a subdivision's development.

Later in the meeting, the committee went with Florence Place instead of Kārearea Pl, and said Kārearea Pl could be added to the road name list.

On Friday, a council spokesperson said discussions with iwi about a possible road name list were ongoing.

Hebberd said Blenheim's new library, Te Kahu o Waipuna, was a "classic example" as to why names could not be just plucked from a list.

"We have drawn on the kōrero associated with that site, to influence the naming of that building, so the adjacent pā sites, the water running past ... there's so much more than just choosing a name off a list.

"We see that when developers put forward names for their own development ... they'll often refer to previous farms, and previous occupations and things like that, so I don't think that's a foreign concept. I think it's just a considered approach. Rather than saying 'here's a word bank and take your pick'."

Several Māori street names in Marlborough, including Rangitāne Dr, in Havelock, are still without a tohutō, or macron, two years after the council said they would be fixed.

Several Māori street names in Marlborough, including Rangitāne Dr, in Havelock, are still without a tohutō, or macron, two years after the council said they would be fixed. Photo: LDR / Stuff / Anthony Phelps

Two years ago Hebberd spearheaded a call for the council to fix the signs of several misspelt Māori place names, but none of them had been changed.

Council's assets and services manager Richard Coningham had responded to Hebberd's submission in December 2021 and said tohutō would be added to 11 road names, and the Ōpaoa Walk.

The work was estimated to cost $9000, and could be covered by existing road maintenance budgets.

But changing Opawa St to Ōpaoa St and Mahakipawa Rd to Mahakipaoa Rd was more challenging as properties on those roads would need to go through address changes with various service providers.

"Rangitāne Dr, still hasn't been fixed. It's still without a macron," Hebberd said.

"Some of these are really straightforward. Adding a macron is easy, but it hasn't been actioned."

"The language is a taonga, we all have a role to play in looking after it, and ensuring that it is used appropriately."

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