New Zealand: policy on Maori in signs criticized

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 1 14:16:46 UTC 2007

Policy on Maori in signs criticised

By Hawea Vercoe

Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ) faced criticism from Parliament's Maori
affairs select committee over restrictions on the use of Maori words on
traffic signs. The issue was sparked by an incident in Rotorua last year
where a 55-seater bus from Maori immersion school Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o
Te Rotoiti was pulled over for displaying "kura" as opposed to "school".
Principal Hawea Vercoe argued the sign did say school, it was just in
Maori, not English.

After Mr Vercoe's protests, LTNZ agreed the bus could display a kura sign
as long as it was accompanied by an internationally recognised symbol.
LTNZ's chief executive and director of land transport Wayne Donnelly
yesterday said legislation requiring "school" signposting was so police
could enforce a 20km/h speed limit where signs were displayed.
Effectively, the limit could not be imposed if the sign said anything
other than "school", and current LTNZ rules were very specific.

Mr Donnelly came under heavy criticism from several committee members who
said the situation presented an opportunity to push for increased
recognition of the Maori language. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples
said he was disappointed in an apparent lack of interest by Mr Donnelly
and LTNZ to push for a rule change. "When CEOs are not in favour, it
doesn't happen," Dr Sharples said. When Mr Donnelly clarified that he was
"neither for or against" a proposed change, National MP Tau Henare said
the position should become even clearer.

"You're not for or against, we are very for, and so are 700,000 Maori ..."
He said it was a "cop-out" for Mr Donnelly to say he was doing his best in
his role as land transport director to administer signage rules. "What I'm
asking for is some forward thinking - not what it says in the rule book.
If people are going to be prescriptive in terms of the rules they follow,
then there is going to be trouble down the line," Mr Henare said. Mr
Donnelly said the members were in effect demanding policy changes that
went beyond the scope of what the department could do on its own. LTNZ
worked on encouraging a greater understanding of Maori language among
staff and had strategies towards the greater issue of Maori identity.



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