Pākehā complaining about Māori place names just 'unwilling to try'

People kicking up a stink about planned Māori place names for a stretch of road through Kāpiti have been told to suck it up and give it a go.

The names are not unpronounceable, and people will be not be penalised for genuine attempts to say them, says Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

Hone Harawira, Mana Movement leader, takes it a step further, saying New Zealanders who don't like it should pack up and go somewhere with no Māori place names - like Mars.

The old State Highway 1 route through Kāpiti has been replaced with a new expressway, so sections of the former highway will be given new names as local roads. The Kapiti Coast District Council's plan is to give them Māori names, reflecting local history.

But some locals have named the plan "PC gone haywire", with Paraparaumu man Mike Judd singled out for complaining the names are too difficult to pronounce.

But Mr Harawira says people like Mr Judd are "that dinosaur generation" and Māori place names are now just "part and parcel with who we are".

"If [Mike Judd] wants that sort of colonial history, go back to England - or somewhere else perhaps, whether it's Scotland, Ireland or Wales. Go there, where there's no Māori place names," Mr Harawira said.

Attitudes against the use of Te Reo stem from a perception that "white blokes have backed off too far for too long", Mr Harawira believes.

His message to those 'white blokes' is: "Get on with it. Life is changing, the world is changing, and in case you didn't notice, it's getting browner by the day."

The Council got the district's three iwi and a local historian to come up with seven names for consideration by the wider public.

Those names are:

  • Hurumutu
  • Hokowhitu
  • Rauoterangi
  • Kākākura
  • Unaiki
  • Katu
  • Matene Te Whiwhi

The Council even put together a little video with the pronunciation of each of the names.

Ms Fox says the names aren't hard if people put in the effort to learn them.

"They are not unpronounceable. I think people are unwilling to try. No one wants to penalise anybody who tries and gets it wrong. If you can genuinely see the attempt, that is fine. "

Ms Fox said she has often sat in pōwhiri and thought there would be less fear if people understood what is being said.

"As we bilingualise our nation, the beauty and the stories that come with those place names are unveiled to the learner of the language. It is not separatism, and it makes us more one as a nation."

The south Auckland suburb of Māngere, she said, is a good example.

The word 'māngere' means 'lazy' in Te Reo - which Ms Fox was confused about. Why would you give a place that name?

"Well, I found out the actual full name is Ngā Hau Māngere - 'the soft, lazy winds'," Ms Fox said.

"That makes so much more sense and it's so much more beautiful and it adds richness and value to our nation when we understand that."

Over time, Pākehā will get used to the reo, Mr Harawira said.

"When they first started singing the national anthem in Māori, a lot of our national sports teams were kind of embarrassed about it," Mr Harawira said.

"Now they all get it. Everybody gets it. They are really comfortable with it."

Submissions on the new names have now closed, and the Council says they are working through a process to assess all 400 of the suggestions. They will then develop a shortlist in consultation with community boards and councillors.

The Māori word for Mars, by the way, is Matawhero - but there are no signposts on Mars.