Thursday, August 5, 2021

A referendum? You mean, like, allowing people to have their say? We can't have that!

It’s fascinating to observe the force with which the government and its protectors in the media have jumped on the National Party’s suggestion that official use of the name “Aotearoa” should be the subject of a referendum.

If this is the most pressing issue Judith Collins can come up with, they scoff, then she’s gone off the road (Ben Thomas’s phrase on Stuff). In any case, they remind us, “Aotearoa” has been around for years. It’s on our passports and banknotes. And guess who was in power when it was put there, as Newshub reminded us last night: why, the National Party! Game, set and match, then. Hell, hasn’t even Judith Collins been heard using the name once or twice?

(As an aside, you almost have to admire the zeal with which Labour’s cheerleaders at Newshub trawl through their old files and video clips looking for anything that might embarrass National. I sometimes wonder whether they get a bit of discreet assistance from the Labour Party research unit. In another example last night, Jenna Lynch, Tova O’Brien’s understudy as chief tormentor of the opposition, portrayed Collins as a hypocrite for criticising a government grant to a Mongrel Mob drug rehab scheme. National had given money to the very same programme in 2017, Lynch sneered. But hang on: National gave $30,000, whereas Labour is giving the gang $2.75 million. Admittedly it’s an infinitesimal difference – like, a mere $2.72 million – but, you know, apples with apples and all that.)   

But back to that suggested Aotearoa referendum. Even David Seymour disses the idea, saying he would have thought New Zealand had more important things to grapple with. (After all, we’re merely talking about the name by which the rest of the world has known us since we first existed as a country. Nothing to see here, folks.) But of course that may just be Seymour seeking to score points over his main rival for the support of the swinging voters whom Jacinda Ardern and her government are doing their best to alienate. I mean, he’s a politician, after all.

What’s interesting here is the sheer weight of the attacks on the referendum idea. This tells us the government and its de facto PR operatives in the media are keen to snuff it out before it gets any traction.

The argument that “Aotearoa” has been around for years is utterly and wilfully disingenuous. Yes, it’s on our passports and banknotes, as an acknowledgment of this country’s bicultural roots. But it has always been secondary to our official name and for that reason, no one could reasonably have objected (and to my knowledge, no one ever has).

But what has happened in recent months is vastly different. With striking suddenness, Aotearoa – which we need to remind ourselves is a name of dubious authenticity – has become the term of choice for politicians, government departments and agencies, academics, teachers, virtue-signalling corporates and the mainstream media. Its use has become routine in government advertising and public statements. In other words, it has officially been adopted as a substitute for New Zealand. And all this has happened without so much as a skerrick of public endorsement.

The absence of a mandate is the issue here, and I suspect National, which otherwise appears bereft of ideas, is correct to latch onto it. Like low-energy light bulbs and cats in dairies, it has the potential to become a focal point for public unease about a barrage of radical government initiatives. That would explain why opponents of a referendum are so eager to kick the ball into the long grass.

They sneer at National’s claim that “Aotearoa” is being promoted by stealth and technically they’re right, since there’s nothing remotely surreptitious about it. “Aotearoa” has been brazenly imposed by a political elite in the hope that we will all adopt it as if by osmosis.  

My own view, for what it’s worth, is that we have nothing to fear from a debate about the country’s name. “New Zealand” has no intrinsic historical or cultural relevance and is almost comically inappropriate, considering our geographical contrast with the flat, low-lying Dutch province that inspired the name. But while it was acquired by historical accident, the name has come to stand for something in the world, as we’ve been reminded during the Olympic Games. It has acquired its own powerful resonance in all manner of spheres: sport, warfare, diplomacy, trade, tourism and the arts, to mention a few. That has to be weighed against the appeal of an alternative that is more distinctively our own.

Other countries (Sri Lanka, Iran, Thailand, Madagascar) have changed their names, but the ramifications are enormous. The only democratic way to determine the issue is by popular vote preceded by a thorough, transparent and informed public discussion of the pros and cons. But the left distrusts democracy, which may explain why the government would prefer that we compliantly adopted Aotearoa “organically” – to use a term favoured by the prime minister – rather than go through the inconvenient business of letting the people have their say.


Anna Mouse said...

As seen in many social media posts, this Laboour Government cares not one whit for our democracy.

They care only for power and their ideology.

New Zealand and New Zealanders must speak against the tyranny of corruption this Labour Government is aligning itself with.

Well witten Karl.

Phil said...

I read a sneering article about Judith's pronunciation of the word Aotearoa. Even if she tries to use the word they go after her.

Brendan McNeill said...

Sir Winston Churchill, wartime prime minister of the United Kingdom once said: “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”

Substituting Aotearoa for New Zealand is a brazen attempt to disassociate New Zealanders from their past as it was, and how we have collectively understood it. It is emblematic of the attempt to impose a new historical narrative about our country. A narrative shaped by the neo-Marxist framework of Critical Race Theory. A past defined by white colonialist oppression, racism and bigotry. That is to become the New Zealand that once was.

Aotearoa is a new nation, one defined by the framework of equity and inclusion. A nation that redefines the Treaty of Waitangi to become one of co-governance between Maori and everyone else, where 16% of citizens have the power of veto over the remainder. A nation where people are given seperate status based upon the pigment of their skin, their ancestral heritage. In short a nation of intentional separatism justified on the basis of equity.

Judith Collins has to do a good deal more to expand upon her concerns, to look beyond just the name and explain the ideological framework that it represents. Even if she is up to the task, she can expect little support from the media.

Karl du Fresne said...

They mocked Don Brash too for his attempts to pronounce Maori words correctly. You can't win.

Alexandra Corbett Dekanova said...

And if you pronounce them correctly you are cultural appropriator. You cannot help you are an oppressor and coloniser and racist. Have you any doubts about, look at your white skin.

transpress nz said...

Maori had no sense of nationalhood when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed - the name for the country was translated as Nu Tirani. Aotearoa means long white cloud -- isn't the country actually a land mass not an amorphic celestial apparition? "New Zealand" may be comically inappropriate in comparison to Zeeland (the Dutch spelling) but New York looks nothing like old York in England, New Orleans nothing like Orleans in France and so on. There's no good reason to change the country's name except as an attempt to pacify a small group who promote a falified history to serve their own purposes.

Jade Warrior said...

My chief concern about changing the name of our country to “Aotearoa” is that it looks too similar to the word “Australia”. Many of us think our national flags look too alike. How would we like to confuse the situation even further by having a similar looking name as well?

And yes, I know that the names “Australia” and “Austria” look similar too, but these two countries are far apart on a map of the world. Australia and New Zealand … not so much.

oneblokesview said...

I recently returned to NZ and was "subjected" to the pre arrival bio security video.
No problem with that other than New Zealand was not mentioned.
Rather it was a keep Aotearoa safe message.

I would guess that if there were non Kiwis arriving they wouldnt have a clue as to what the video was on about as they expected to arrive in NZ.

I have put in an OIA asking who
a) Approved the creation of the video
b) Who approved it to be distributed

David McLoughlin said...

I know that the names “Australia” and “Austria” look similar too

Austria is actually Österreich, a name that neither looks nor sounds like "Australia" or "Aotearoa." Or "Austria" for that matter. It is pronounced "Er-ster-rysh."

It seems a very English thing to try to rename other people's countries because the English couldn't pronounce the very straightforward originals.

And no no no no I am not talking about the Dutch naming of New Zealand in that previous sentence. I know there was no single Māori name for the place before Tasman shipped up. I am poking fun at the English, who stride the European continent shouting loudly in English at people, thinking that is how to make themselves understood by folk who often speak better English than they do and don't need to be shouted at as if they were imbecilic children.

Tinman said...

Aotearoa means long white cloud"

Not in NZ it doesn't.

Here it means "Wrong White Crowd".

Ian Bradford said...

Aotearoa is not and English word nor is it a te reo word. It is a nothing word. It is a fictitious name invented by S. Percy Smith of English descent, some 50 years after the Treaty was signed, in his fictional story of Kupe. I find it ironic that Mr Waititi and other elite Maori activists want to change the name of our country to Aoteaora when it was a word invented by a person of British descent. I thought they hated all things colonial. So do we want a fictitious name for this country? Definitely not. By the way the Maori name for New Zealand is Nu Tirani. It's in the Treaty.


Unknown said...

The biggest issue I have with the media coverage of this debate is the short and selective memories most who cover this issue seem to have. I note Matthew Tukaki has been active in his condemnation of National's proposal, demanding the end of what he calls the 'weaponization' of Te Reo and has been quoted as saying "there is no conspiracy and the use of “Aotearoa” is well in practice across the nation. No one is saying get rid of New Zealand altogether – that’s a tactic to get people to buy into the very worst of politics which is race baiting”

Errr... Matthew, barely 11 months ago just prior to the last election the Maori Party announced its policy to "officially change the country's name from New Zealand to Aotearoa and replace Pākehā place names with their given Māori names."

It would seem that in the MSM and Matthew's world, National's call for a debate is racist but a race based party that calls for the abolition of English place names and wishes to force their renaming to a Te Reo equivalent is somehow not the same thing. If any party in NZ politics is race baiting to buy votes it is the Maori party...not National.

David McLoughlin said...

Aotearoa is not and English word nor is it a te reo word.

Aotearoa is very much a Māori word in every respect, and was noted by colonisers as far back as Governor Grey in a book he did on Māori mythology. It's certainly not a word created by some white folk decades later, let alone recently.

It breaks into three parts, ao (which often means "world" these days), tea (which can mean "light" among other things and "white" according to some sources I have seen) and "roa" ("long" or "tall" among other things).

It was used as a description of the North Island long before it was adopted for the whole country.

Māori at the time Tasman and Cook floated up likely had no concept of a country, as they were iwi-based. They certainly had their own names for all the places they inhabited, many of which are in official and uncontroversial use today.

I am enjoying this debate over names. Until recently, I had no idea Hamilton was named after a naval officer killed at Gate Pa. And yet I have known for years the historical basis for renaming Rhodesia as Zimbabwe. Shame on me!

Doug Longmire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Espersen said...

Aotearoa sounds nice - rolls easily off the tongue - sounds poetic. I am quite happy about the way it seems to have come to mean New Zealand. But why on earth change our country's real name officially?? So what if New Zealand's name originates from a silly accident of a sort - all words for everything probably originate from such accidents. That's the way living languages develop - always did. And spare a thought for teachers and mapmakers in all countries who will need to change the word in all schools and everywhere - just to accommodate our childish preoccupations.

Perhaps in a hundred years, but only if the whole world begins to use that word about us, we should quietly change it officially.

Doug Longmire said...

I am reminded of John Key's fumbling attempt to change the national flag. But at least he had the common sense to have a referendum for the people of New Zealand to decide this issue.
This current batch of "reformative" Marxists clearly have no interest at all in giving the citizenry ANY say in these matters at all. So we are witnessing the destruction of democracy in our country progressing at full speed.
On top of that the Child Poverty Minister - Comrade Ardern - is making sure that the public are not told about these matters in the mainstream media. This has been accomplished by the simple fascist tactic of funding the media and then demanding what the media must and must not publish - or no funding !!

Doug Longmire said...

In fact New Zealand now has total mainstream media censorship in place.
The Marxist government, bent on destroying our democracy and our way of life, has put an iron fist on the media.

Johnston said...

Aotearoa is not and English word nor is it a te reo word.


Aotearoa is an English word, in New Zealand English. It is very much in common parlance, and is its meaning is comprehended by all. It's in the dictionary with a description that matches its understanding.

In the same way, the little phrases of Maori used by Radio NZ presenters are also English words, or are on their way to be, at least in the regional English dialect of New Zealand English. It is not speaking Maori if the phrase functions semantically within in sentence that is otherwise semantically and syntactically an English sentence.

Only full emersion learning will save Maori, but the eventual tongue will be far from what is considered Maori today. In the same way, English will evolve. In reality, New Zealand English will only become more incomprehensible to other English speakers over time, and the common tongue will evolve into what will be etymologically New Zealand English although by that time it might call itself te reo.

Andy Espersen said...

Spot on Johnston. That is the way living languages develop - and that is the way we should let them develop. But by inanely forcing this to happen we are, in effect, uglifying both English and te reo. By all means try to breathe life into that dead language - but don't spoil our beautiful, living English in doing so. Keep the two languages separate.

D'Esterre said...

David: "It seems a very English thing to try to rename other people's countries..."

In fairness, it isn't just the English who do it, of course. The French have names for other countries and their capital cities. And the Chinese have - at least in Mandarin - names for other countries. Some are transliterations, such as the name for NZ.

The English cop a lot of flak for their apparent inability to pronounce names which aren't English. But they certainly don't have that on their own.

D'Esterre said...

Andy Espersen: "Aotearoa sounds nice..."

That it does. And even as recently as a couple of years ago, I had no particular objection to a name change, provided that it was mandated by a referendum.

Now, however, it comes along with an unwanted and pernicious side-helping of ethno-nationalism. We need this like we need toothache. I no longer favour a name change, a fortiori as it is being done in the current environment.

If there is a mandate via a referendum, I'll be obliged to accept it, but I'll continue to use NZ, as I do now.

D'Esterre said...

Johnston: "...the little phrases of Maori used by Radio NZ presenters are also English words, or are on their way to be, at least in the regional English dialect of New Zealand English."

Yes, they'll be absorbed by the local English dialect if enough people start using them. That's already happened with other Maori words. Vice versa with Maori language of course. Loan words are the stuff of language evolution.

However. People can't be forced to use them, and if there's enough resistance, they'll remain a peculiarity of RNZ.

"Only full emersion learning will save Maori..."

If the language is to survive, it needs native speakers. Bilingualism will not save it. This is true of all languages, not just Maori. At present, it looks as if there are no native speakers left. If that's so, the language is dead. Bilingualism and immersion learning will keep the language extant for as long as there are people using it. But absent those native speakers, the language is like Latin.

Unknown said...

What is being inflicted on New Zealand?

In recent times John Key promised the country a referendum on a new flag for New Zealand.
In due course this referendum took place and lost.

Suddenly now in very short time we have suddenly had;

Government Departments dropping their English names and replacing them with Maori names.
Government programs appearing with Maori names. This is an almost underhanded way of hiding what is going on. Unless one can get a translation for the program name, one has no idea what is happening and just who in mandating it.

All media suddenly using both Maori and English names for any thing they publish or broadcast.

Now just as quickly they are only using the Maori names and are dropping the English names completely.

TV and Radio announcers/personalities and reporters are using Te Reo to lead into their pronouncements which needs to be subtitled so the overwhelming majority of the New Zealand population has any hope of understanding what is being said,

Even advertising – the Mobil advertisement before the Sports News on TV1 for example – is totally unreadable to the population at large.

This all seems to have New Zealand “Hell Bent” on becoming Aotearoa without the consensus of the population at large. John Key was at least honest enough to ask the entire population for consent to change the flag.

When, I might ask, is someone going to commission a new National Anthem? And when suddenly is a new official Aotearoa Flag going to appear on Government flag poles nationwide?

I for one, along with everyone one of my friends that I discuss these matters with feel in the strongest of terms that New Zealand is being subject to an unmandated social change on a huge scale, and we have never been consulted as a Nation.

If the proposal to change the flag had been successful, then we could have gone along with it knowing that the majority of the population favoured it.

This suddenly inflicted change is on a colossal scale by comparison and is being done without the population’s consent.

I wish my voice to be heard in the strongest possible terms as a request to return immediately to the Status Quo, and for whoever or what ever is driving the current path to have the decency and honesty with the New Zealand population to initiate a referendum on the subject.

Who is it who thinks they can simply and swiftly change the name of the Nation?

Until now I believed we lived in a democracy.