Consultation should include making Tairawhiti ‘official’ too

EDITORIAL

The effort to officially reinstate the original Maori names for this district and city area is one of the most polarising issues we face as a community.

On one side people roll their eyes, bemoaning PC madness and the costs and confusion of such a change. There is strong antipathy towards any suggestion of removing or demoting the name Gisborne, which is popular and remains the only name many New Zealanders know our place by.

On the other, people wonder why our city is named after a bureaucrat-turned-colonial secretary who probably never set foot here, and our region and bay is sometimes still called Poverty Bay — when the district and current city area had meaningful and beautiful names for centuries before Pakeha arrived. Both names can be seen to perpetuate a Eurocentric, colonial-era view of our place, and the subjugation of its original inhabitants.

The obvious resolution is to have the Maori names officially reinstated as dual names.

Those who would rather leave things as they are should know this simply creates room for further polarisation as the debate continues in public and private — where it is more usually an echo-chamber discussion (or rant) among like-minded people.

So Mayor Meng Foon is right to bring this topic before the council again . . . even if he can be criticised for doing so after being successfully re-elected, rather than campaigning on it.

The recommendation to councillors this week is to have council staff research, consult and apply to the New Zealand Geographic Board to change the name Poverty Bay to a dual name of Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay.

Leaving Gisborne as a standalone name for the city would be popular with most people but disappointing for others. As the council notes, its recommendation is much less disruptive and the proposed dual name would help promote our distinctive regional history and identity. It also refers to the “additional discussion” about Tairawhiti for the Gisborne-East Coast district — and should promote this for consultation too.

The effort to officially reinstate the original Maori names for this district and city area is one of the most polarising issues we face as a community.

On one side people roll their eyes, bemoaning PC madness and the costs and confusion of such a change. There is strong antipathy towards any suggestion of removing or demoting the name Gisborne, which is popular and remains the only name many New Zealanders know our place by.

On the other, people wonder why our city is named after a bureaucrat-turned-colonial secretary who probably never set foot here, and our region and bay is sometimes still called Poverty Bay — when the district and current city area had meaningful and beautiful names for centuries before Pakeha arrived. Both names can be seen to perpetuate a Eurocentric, colonial-era view of our place, and the subjugation of its original inhabitants.

The obvious resolution is to have the Maori names officially reinstated as dual names.

Those who would rather leave things as they are should know this simply creates room for further polarisation as the debate continues in public and private — where it is more usually an echo-chamber discussion (or rant) among like-minded people.

So Mayor Meng Foon is right to bring this topic before the council again . . . even if he can be criticised for doing so after being successfully re-elected, rather than campaigning on it.

The recommendation to councillors this week is to have council staff research, consult and apply to the New Zealand Geographic Board to change the name Poverty Bay to a dual name of Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay.

Leaving Gisborne as a standalone name for the city would be popular with most people but disappointing for others. As the council notes, its recommendation is much less disruptive and the proposed dual name would help promote our distinctive regional history and identity. It also refers to the “additional discussion” about Tairawhiti for the Gisborne-East Coast district — and should promote this for consultation too.

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