Wednesday, September 15, 2021

A chance to end the dishonest shadow-boxing

It’s probably no bad thing that the Maori Party has initiated a petition calling for New Zealand’s name to be changed to Aotearoa. It may have the effect of forcing action on an issue that needs to be resolved.

What we’ve been observing for the past few months is a sort of phony war in which politicians, government officials and the media have been freely using Aotearoa despite the name having no official status and without any public mandate.

This practice began almost hesitantly and often in tandem with “New Zealand” as a sort of each-way bet. But the use of Aotearoa as a stand-alone name has become steadily more brazen and confident, to the point where it seems unexceptional – which is exactly the aim of those promoting it.

The purpose, clearly, is to impose the name on us: not by stealth (you could hardly call it surreptitious) but by sheer frequency of usage, in the hope that it will stick – or to quote the prime minister, that Aotearoa (which, incidentally, isn’t recognised by my Spellcheck) will be adopted “organically”.

By launching its petition, the Maori Party has put the issue formally on the public agenda. This might at least serve as the catalyst for a free and open debate that’s well overdue. It would be no surprise if calls for a referendum gather momentum to the point where they can no longer be ignored.

My own view, for what it’s worth, is that there are good arguments for adopting Aotearoa. Setting aside all the arguments about its dubious authenticity, the name at least says something about us and our place in the world which New Zealand does not. It also acknowledges the people who were here first, which must count for something.

Against that, as I said on this blog a few weeks ago, New Zealand is the name by which the rest of the world has known us since we first existed as a national entity. It may have been bestowed by historical accident, but 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.

What matters is that the issue must be resolved through a transparent, democratic process in which the majority will prevails. So let’s have a debate and put an end to all the dishonest ideological shadow-boxing.

The same should apply to the names of towns and cities. If the citizens of New Plymouth, Gisborne, Christchurch and Dunedin want their cities to be renamed Ngamotu, Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Otautahi and Otepoti respectively, so be it.

But that seems improbable. While many Maori place names have greater cultural resonance  than English ones, whose origins are mostly forgotten and of minimal historical relevance anyway, I suspect the sense of local identity attached to existing names is too strong to be renounced.

Besides, it’s absurd to suggest, as Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi does, that these cities and towns originally had Maori names. They didn’t. New Zealand’s cities and towns are wholly the creations of British colonialism. They are therefore totally distinct entities from any Maori settlements that may have originally occupied the same sites.

Take Auckland, for example. That it happens to occupy a general location originally known to Maori as Tamaki Makaurau is hardly a compelling argument that historically, that’s the city’s rightful name. The current fashion for using Tamaki Makaurau to refer to a vast metropolis far beyond the wildest imaginings of any 19th century Maori (or British settler, for that matter) is virtuous posturing. That doesn’t mean Auckland shouldn’t change its name – merely that the people who live there should be the ones who decide.

How about this for a rule of thumb? We should retain or restore the Maori names of everything that existed pre-colonisation and for which Maori had their own established nomenclature. That includes geographical features such as mountains, lakes, rivers, coastal features and islands – yes, even the North and South Islands (Te Ika a Maui and Te Wai Pounamu respectively) and Stewart Island (Rakiura).  This wouldn’t require a seismic adjustment because many are referred to by their Maori names anyway – even some that were once known by English names, such as Mt Taranaki/Egmont.

But for everything created post-colonisation and given an English or European name, the status quo should prevail unless the people decide otherwise. This would acknowledge both the Tangata Whenua and the Tangata Tiriti (i.e. non-Maori), but wouldn’t preclude the citizens of any locality from deciding to ditch their English place name in favour of a Maori one. I for one would rather live in Ngamotu than New Plymouth and Taitoko rather than Levin.

The bottom line in all cases is that decisions should be made democratically, not imposed by the political elite or the raucous proponents of identity politics.

Update (added at 3.40pm): A Curia Research poll published today found that 49 percent of respondents opposed a change from New Zealand to Aotearoa - 39.2 percent "strongly" and 9.6 percent "somewhat". There was support for the change from 28 percent of respondents (18.4 percent "strongly") and 22 percent were neutral.


Anna Mouse said...

I am of the belief that it is not solely about the change of name, but is tied very deeply to He Puapua (like 3 waters etc).

It is more about control than naming rights or wrongs.

Democracy is being abrogated for ideology that affects all New Zelanders and Aotearoa is just the greeting card that softens the nation up.

Kimbo said...

Not sure it would be the end of the world if we changed the name to Aotearoa. We were prepared to contemplate the same for our flag relatively recently. As long as it does go to a referendum.

The problem with the Maori Party’s scorched earth policy over non-Maori place names (and the clearly stated bog-standard accusation of “racism” if you even demur) is that it overlooks that the use of Maori place names is very common. Just listen to any visitor trying to pronounce common locations. So no, there has not been a deliberate extirpation of Te Reo or ancestral mana IMHO.

Sure, my city Auckland for example (which is a city that did not exist in 1840 so this is not just about the physical locale, it’s also about the accumulated cultural capital of over 180 years)) is not known commonly as Tamaki Makaurau....but what about, just at a glance Orewa, Mairangi, Takapuna, Ranui, Waitakere, Waitemata, Titirangi, Owairaka, Remuera, Kohimarama, Rangitoto, Onehunga, Ottahuhu, Papatoetoe, Mangere, Papakura, Manukau, Manurewa...not to mention a plethora of street names?!

Ultimately a minor party to whom most Maori don’t even invest their vote are trying to find an attention grabbing point of difference. Good luck to ‘me is probably the healthiest response. And why the likely result is that it will sink like a lead balloon in any referendum.

Ricardo said...

Does this mean I am no longer a New Zealander but an Aotearoan? Sounds like some sort of mollusc gatherer or follower of an esoteric diet.

For what it is worth members of my family died as New Zealanders fighting fascism. Good enough for this New Zealander.

David McLoughlin said...

I'll happily sign the petition. I'd vote "yes" in a referendum, too.

I find it somewhat odd that the country's official name is a misspelling of a small province in the Netherlands.

A country changing its name is not rare. Does anyone other than readers of this blog remember what Bangladesh used to be called? Or Zimbabwe? Botswana or Tanzania anyone? And look at all the independent countries that popped out of Yugoslavia and the USSR!

I wish the Tino Rangatiritanga flag had been one of the flag-referendum options. I suspect many people would have voted for that as a distinctive emblem of our country.

I wish we were a republic, too.

But nothing I might wish for will happen without public referendums. No government would change the country's name without one. Of that I am confident.

Doug Longmire said...

David - are you seriously saying that New Zealand has any similarity whatsoever to Botswana, Zimbabwe or Tanzania ?

Doug Longmire said...

Unlike the examples quoted by David above, New Zealand is not a war-torn, third world, unstable nation.
Our name is famous. It is analogous to a brand name in the world. Kiwis, New Zealanders, these are names to be proud of.
"Aotearoans" !!! Who are they?
I personally will never use the A word, as I will also not use any other Maori word that replaces an English word. I am not picking on Maoris in particular, because I would also not use a Chinese or Indian, or any other language word to replace an English one, unless it was in the idiom of English.

Andy Espersen said...

I think Aotearoa is a great little word – use it myself, at times. But it is miles too early, and quite unnecessary, to hold a referendum. Only 36% of us are yet for officially changing our country’s name – Hobson’s Pledge (and many others) are worried that percentage will increase (it probably will!) – so want a referendum held immediately! They should sit down and breathe through their noses. Why the hurry??

In principle, I am against any change of place name by decree – or for that matter, by a “binding referendum” (showing 50.1% majority for). The whole charm of a beautiful living language is precisely the quirkiness, the surprise, the sheer enjoyment of life that shows through our place names. Almost every single existing place name in the world has developed by accident or through accepted use.

Let not the clammy hands of officialdom and government decrees interfere with our beautiful, living NZ English. Paekakariki was quietly developing into Piecack - by anno Domini 2100 we would all have enjoyed such quirkiness in our charming, forever youthful NZ English.

I think the name Aotearoa will catch on – and, as New Zealand has a lot of friends out there, the rest of the world will most likely begin to use it also. So, in say 30 years time, we will be able to change the name officially by simple show of hands in Parliament.

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trev1 said...

In the early hours of 20 May 1941 in the Ayia Valley on Crete my late uncle heard his Sergeant cry "Stand for New Zealand " and took up his firing position as Nazi paratroopers fell from the sky. "Stand for Aotearoa"? Yeah, Nah. Zealand may have been a province of the Netherlands but New Zealand is our distinctive name. Aotearoa is a colonial confection that ironically is now synonymous with tribalist supremacism. How supine do you want to be?

David George said...

See it for what it is; it's not really about the name, whether it "sounds nice", is it! It's a claim to power, a line in the sand. It's a shame it's come to this but I believe that's how it is and that's how the protagonists see it as well.

Andy Espersen said...

Further to my piece : I fully agree with Eamon Sloan. I forgot to state that I would most certainly vote no in a referendum. Changing a country's name is such serious suggestion that it should not even be contemplated before the new name is already in common use by most people in the world - which could possibly be the case in the time of a generation (25 years).

Unknown said...

Well even if we have a referendum and Aotearoa wins, it won't solve the problem, as those against the change will still use the English language name/names. All it does is turns the whole thing round 180 degrees (the Maori flag is still flying !!) remember the old English saying " You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink". The olny major difference will be those not using the new name/names (and that will be huge) will be accused of being the usual racists, bigots etc. Appart from the fact, has any one thought about the costs of all of this, map changes, book changes, address changes etc (good old rate payers) all at a time when the country is borrowing money like its going out of fashion, perhaps by changing our identity we can avoid paying it back. Us Aotearoians will be the laughing stock of the world.

Empathic said...

The current fashion is to change many terms to reo versions which often amounts to cultural appropriation. For example, using recently invented Maori terms for days of the week disrespects the European mathematics and astronomy that produced the 7-day week and 52-week year. Maori divided the year into months and had names for the days of the month, associated with beliefs more astrological than scientific. The invented term 'wiki' is a Maorification, essentially a mispronunciation of 'week'. Similarly, use by Maori of the term 'pukapuka' instead of the English term 'book' is disrespectful to the cultures that invented and developed written language. Why not just use and properly pronounce the term 'book'? Singing and profiting from waiata as opposed to chants with a handful of notes fails to acknowledge or respect the European heritage of complex melody, chords and the necessary instruments none of which Maori had developed. Yet according to some Maori it's unacceptable for Europeans to use modified pronunciations of Maori terms or for Europeans to use or profit from anything from Maori culture. Double standards.

Yes, a case can be made for reverting to Maori names that existed for mountains, landmarks and particular areas where pa and marae previously existed. There is the problem of which iwi's term to use for many such places that changed hands and names through successive violent conquests. Regardless, to apply those names to much larger areas developed into towns and cities on the basis of councils and amenities amounts to disrespect for European culture.

The term 'Aotearoa' was never used by Maori to describe 'New Zealand' because there was no such entity. There were separate names for the various islands that were later deemed by Europeans to constitute the country 'New Zealand'. 'Aotearoa' was at most a term of minor use for the North Island. It's a nice enough name and there's no reason why we might not want to adopt it for the country, but there are many considerations and ramifications so a name change should be done on the basis of robust democratic method and probably a substantial majority. Until then, using the term 'Aotearoa' for New Zealand is disrespectful and is cultural appropriation.

Andy Espersen said...

You are so right, "Unknown". All that goes without saying.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I don't mind adopting it as the/an official Māori name for what is in English called New Zealand (which, incidentally, was translated as Niu Tirani in the ToW—I'm not sure why this is rarely mentioned). But I do have objections to using it in English, either as a replacement or an appendix, as in "Aotearoa New Zealand". No-one says "Éire Ireland"; it's one or the other. If I were to write in Māori, I would not use "New Zealand"; similarily if I were to write or speak in English, I would not use "Aotearoa". Some journalists seem determined to forge an entirely new pidgin where English words are replaced with Māori translations (e.g. "mahi", "kaimahi", "ākonga"). The strategy has worked insofar as I typically understand these words despite having a limited grasp of Māori grammar, but it certainly makes things harder to read, and I struggle to see how it is inclusive of recent migrants who have a limited grasp of English, let alone a minority indigenous language.

Doug Longmire said...

I see that Mobil have invented and displayed on their pumps new faux Maori words for 91 Octane and 25 Octane petrol. Thus ensuring that I will avoid Mobil petrol stations . Actually I prefer Z anyway, because it’s owned by us Kiwis.

I really believe that this racist push from a small number of political activists is not a good thing for ordinary people (Maori/Mixed race/European). The emphasis on separate Maori language and separatism is a tragedy for Maori folk. We are all New Zealanders/Kiwis. The separatist push coming from an active minority will only create division, anger and possibly violence. It will not benefit Maori.

Unknown said...

I am all for a referendum, but ask for more than two choices. We had up to six in the "flag" referendum.
My first choice would be "Godzone" followed by "Newzild" and then "East Oz"
Maybe we should have a competition?


Ricardo said...

To Trev1

I am not sure about 20 May 1941 and a ergeant in the the Ayia Valley (could well be correct) but it was Howard Kippenberger at Galatas to the retreating 18th Battalion who shouted "Stand for New Zealand" that rallied the men.

I Care said...

I see this as no different to the flag debate and recall the strong voices ( including Maori ex servicemen) protesting change on the basis that this was the flag under which we fought for freedom in two world wars. We had a referendum, got a result and largely moved on. Even if this issue was rejected by a referendum, the push for change would go on. This vocal majority are not “suggesting” change, they are the demanding it. As the mainstream media have all been bought off, those expressing contrary views have difficulty getting traction. The Govt will not allow a referendum but they will allow, and encourage, “organic” ( Jacinda’s word ) assimilation of these views into the public mindset. Just like all the other insidious changes that are being foisted on the NZ public.

Hilary Taylor said...

Not in favour of a change...liked using lifeboat Aotearoa as a nickname, though the lifeboat connotation has been demeaned over time...use EnZed a bit, quite like the language New Zild...unimpressed by the motive/agenda for change...and anything that those godawful te paati Maori members want, I want the opposite on principle.

transpress nz said...

The Leftists agitating for a made-up Maori name that Maori at the time of the Treaty never had or used overlook the literalness of New Sea Land which is what the Dutch translates as. And I remember a top-selling record album called "Land of New Vigour and Zeal" by a group called the Rumour, about 1972 if my memory is correct. The Leftists' thinking is a result of their Cultural Marxist training, no more. The present government knows that a referendum would go the same way as John Key's flag referendum did, so they're unlikely to pursue it, before 2023 anyway.

Ian Bradford said...

I agree with Karl with most of his comments except Karl, Maori or should I say part-Maori were NOT the first here. They are NOT indigenous. There is much evidence to show there have been people here two or three thousand years before Maori. The trouble is it has all been kept under wraps by Maori with the aid of successive governments. In the meantime, part-Maori are using indigenous status to obtain many privileges which they are not entitled to.
New Zealand may be of Dutch origin, but it is European-which is the origin of most of us.

Ruaridh said...

I too would have happily accepted the Tino Rangatiritanga flag as a replacement for our current one.
And I am not averse to the New Zealand becoming Aotearoa.
Lest some of your coterie of regular comment providers should think that I must therefore be a left winger, work for RNZ or be young and short on life experience but nevertheless long on changing the world, the fact is that I am none of those.
I will be 80 next ( not far away) birthday, my political thinking is in the middle ground with a leaning towards the right, and I have never worked for RNZ.
What, so I find after actively “getting out more”, is that amongst a very diverse spread of people, my position is far from unusual.

Doug Longmire said...

Good point, Unknown. Maori are not indigenous to NZ. They are the remnants of a wandering tribe, indigenous to Taiwan thousands of years ago. They left Taiwan and travelled by water down through the Pacific and mainly settled in the Pacific Islands, with their, by now, mixed blood from Taiwan, Melanesia etc.
Very recently they made another journey and settled here. They are SETTLERS, not indigenous.

Kimbo said...

@ Doug Longmire

No, Maori are not technically indigenous. Instead, they are aboriginal, “being the first or earliest known of its kind in a region”

Hence the same wording is reflected in the text of Treaty of Waitangi, where Hobson was “authorised to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand”.

To be honest your observation, while ultimately and rightly aimed at the invariable and automatic assumption of Woke ideology that “indigenous” means marginalised and exploited by the dominant hegemony, rather overlooks the fact that, like the technically correct line “Islam and Muslims aren’t a race, therefore Islamophobia isn’t racism” it achieves little to provide semantic or moral clarification.

To that end, Doug, people like you around here intrigue me. I can clearly hear what your agin, this constitutional and legal separatism thing where one racial group vetoes another. Plenty of Maori argue that the one-size-fits-all Pakeha dominated bureaucracy has done
that for generations, and the comparative statistical failure of many Maori in health, education, justice, wealth and other well-being indicators is the inevitable result. And any attempts to make delivery more user friendly result in the hysterical reaction of “apartheid!”

Just wondering, Doug, seeing you are so forthright (and good on you for that), and as you along with others have IMHO long since turned this site into a bit of a grumpy old right wing white man’s (of which I am one!) echo chamber...what is your solution for those fellow citizens who happen to be Maori and who are falling between the cracks? Just more of the same, Maori have to take those majority Pakeha-determined solutions, and really, they are just 100% to blame if, despite lots of points of difficulty, they don’t avail themselves of the solution and pull themselves up by their individual and collective boot straps?

Genuine question to you and other including especially Karl. Maybe time to tone down the Cassandra prophecies of doom...or if not, and if you need your anti-Woke scream therapy, at least tell the world what your proposed solutions are.

Because I can sure understand why, with those stats like they are, why many are turning in frustration to the chimera and false promise of Radical Critical dialectic snake oil.

Karl du Fresne said...

While I welcome your comments, it's unfair (some might say cowardly) to personally criticise commenters who identify themselves while you remain anonymous. If you're going to continue in this vein, I suggest you name yourself or risk deletion.

Doug Longmire said...

It is difficult to respond in any sensible manner to the points/questions you have posed. This is mainly because your points are largely incoherent, and rambling.

Doug Longmire said...

As I posted previously, words to this effect:-

"I really believe that this racist push from a small number of political activists is not a good thing for ordinary citizens of New Zealand (Maori/Mixed race/European, etc). The emphasis on separate Maori language and racial separatism is a tragedy for Maori. We are all New Zealanders/Kiwis. The separatist push coming from an active minority will only create division, anger and exacerbate the racial divide. It will not benefit Maori. It cannot possibly make New Zealand a fairer, better country for all citizens."

Ian Bradford said...

Ian Says:

Actually kimbo you don't know what you are talking about. Maori are NOT aboriginal either. They were not the firsts here. As I said there is plenty of evidence to show others were here long before Maori-some 3000 years before. you need to check out the stone structures in Northland and the pre Maori moa hunters of Hawkes Bay. There are plenty of other examples too.
So I repeat, Maori(part-Maori), are neither aboriginal nor indigenous. It suits part Maori with the help of successive govts to keep this tightly under wraps.

Kimbo said...

@ Doug Longmire

No problem and a genuine thank you for the response.



Karl du Fresne said...

I've published your comment because I believe freedom of speech must extend to theories that most people regard as crackpot.

Doug Longmire said...

Interesting - I have also read of artifacts being discovered which pre date Maori settlement by centuries. Most of these artifacts, including ash and tools and bones from cooking, are buried deeply under layers of volcanic ash.
I do not necessarily believe these reports. However I am interested to see that instead of being investigated to any extent, they are rubbished out of hand as "conspiracy theories". This is a phrase similar to "racist". A label to slap on any inconvenient discussion or point of view.

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Longmire said...

Keeping an open mind. Yes - that was my point.
This is not a topic that I have strong feelings about.
However I have been curious that there have been artifacts found that appear to pre-date Maori settlement. And curious that they have been scorned and rejected in extreme terms.
Probably because such findings would demolish even further the current ridiculous claims that the Maori settlers here are "indigenous".
Another interesting side point. The Maori brought with them the Kumara. This vegetable is native to South America. How did they get it?