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Te Ururoa Flavell Speech: NZ Geographic Board Bill

NZ Geographic Board (Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Third reading, Tuesday 13 May 2008; 8.20pm

Naumai, hoki mai ki te whare.

Mr Speaker, the importance of correct pronunciation and respect for a region or territory is in fact centuries old.

My colleague, Mr Hone Harawira, referred me to the Bible, in fact Judges, chapter 12 verse 6. My colleague, Mr Harawira, a fine and upstanding citizen of Tipene has referred me to these words, and so I share these with you:

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passes of Jordan

In the days of the Old Testament, mispronunciation bore a price.

This Bill, the New Zealand Geographic Board (Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Bill made me return to the wisdom of times gone by, and wonder whether the lazy or downright careless mispronunciation of geographic names should also carry a price. Death, maybe not. Flogging, a little bit tough? Sitting next to Mr Harawira? Maybe?

We, in the Maori Party, can I say, have been appreciative of the way in which this particular piece of legislation has stimulated such a wide-ranging and thought-provoking debate about the importance of nom-en-cla-ture, the selection of names.

During the course of this Bill, we were duly advised by DARian Fenton, Sandra Gooodie, Tau Henare, and others of the correct pronunciation of their names – and the House should be suitably equipped now to pronounce the names of Tariana Turia, Te Ururoa Flavell, Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira with due respect and regard to the tupuna names that we carry.

I am also impressed by the way in which my offer of help was taken up by some of the members of the House, and it has been very pleasing throughout the debate to observe the effort members have made to take care with the pronunciation of the geographic place names under consideration.

Just one more development Mr Speaker – I hope we can carry the correc pronunciation of Maori names outside of discussion on this Bill into words such as Maori, even Taranaki I suspect. I have a quick pronunciation guide, available here, just to assist members in getting right.

The debate has provoked the interest of the outside world.

I have received emails informing me of the meaning of names such as Te Urewera, Panekaka, Kaikiore; advising me that Putauaki is not Mount Edgecumbe and never will be; reminding me that Ranana is not London and best we all learn to tell the difference.

Naming rights are the way in which we demonstrate our respect for the origins and heritage of the place belonging to the name – or more particularly, the name belonging to the place.

Mr Speaker, the Bill will establish the development of rules, protocols or guidelines to enable a systematic and standardized approach to the official naming of geographic features.

We would hope that this systematic and standardized approach will benefit from the pearls of wisdom shared in the debating chamber over these last few weeks.

Mr Speaker, last year, as part of theSpeakers Delegation to Europe I was made aware about the protocols that have been adopted in Sweden which require that all new namesmust have a linguistic form that must be compatible with the Swedish language.

The Swedish Names Act recommends that any names whose composition, pronunciation or spelling is such that their linguistic form is not appropriate as a surname in Sweden will not be accepted by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office.

As we debated in this House the standing of the two official languages of Aotearoa (te reo Maori and sign language) and the defacto language of common use (English) I have wondered, indeed, what language would inform the naming of geographic features and the Crown protected areas.

Would te reo Maori for example Mr Speaker be the standard against which all geographic names would be approved?

What histories are honoured, whose ancestors are recognised?

In her 2001 doctorate thesisTihei Mauri Ora – Honouring our voices; Dr Leonie Pihama describes the possibility of renaming of the places around her hometown, Waitara, because those streets commemorate, for example the

• chief crown purchasing agent, a guy called Donald McLean;

• the Governor Gore Browne;

• the Hon. Alfred Domett, Colonial Secretary at the outbreak of the Maori war;

• Robert Parris, the Civil Commissioner of Taranaki who was intimately connected to the conflict at Waitara;

• Lieutenant Blake of HMSNiger;

• Governor Sir George Grey;

• And so on and son on.

Mr Speaker, imagine if you will for a moment how the iwi of Te Atiawa feel, every day, travelling down McLean, Browne, Domett, Parris, Blake, Grey Street, and recognising the history that comes with those names.

Imagine also, how they would feel travelling down streets which recognise the special histories and people of Ngati Rahiri, Otaraua, Pukerangiora, Puketapu, Ngati Tawhirikura, Manukorihi, Ngati Tuparikino, Ngati Te Whiti and Hamua.

Mr Speaker I would suggest that we need a new approach.

Can I say that the open-minded approach of most of the Members of this House in considering the significance of geographic names is the type of approach we would seek at both national and territorial level regarding naming decisions.

I say this, Mr Speaker, because we noted that there was no clear consensus throughout the submissions on whether Board naming decisions should be binding or advisory only.

There was some support for retaining the status quo – what could be considered a mix of both binding and advisory powers.

Currently most Board decisions are final and binding – but they are also able to act in an advisory capacity when they receive objections to a name proposal. In those circumstances a Board recommendation is sent to the Minister for a final decision.

This latter example was the situation that confronted the Minister in March 2005 when the Geographic Board sought to correct the spelling of Mount Parahaki in Whangarei to Mount Parihaka.

Mount Parihaka, for those who aren’t aware, was the site of a very substantial pa in pre-European times, and comes under the care of Te Parawhau hapu as tangata whenua in the Whangarei region.

The Minister was required to make a decision, under section 13 of the Act, whether toconfirm, modify or reverse the Board’s recommendation.

One matter that was indeed of crucial importance to both the Board and the Minister was the fact of whether an original Maori placename existed.

In coming to the point of decision-making, there was unanimous agreement between the various Maori groups represented at a meeting on 14 June 2005, that Parihaka was the name which has always been used in their oratory on the marae.

As the case developed it became apparent that while the Native Land Court had sometimes got Maori names wrong, the oral record, by chant and repetition, keeps the correct pronunciation coming through in its original form.

The Board was assured that Parihaka was the name that Maori were using in the 19th century and earlier. Accordingly, the Minister confirmed the correction back to Parihaka.

I wanted to share this case study in some depth as it represents to me an excellent and robust process.

It is important that we remember there are processes that work, that there are people who believe in consultation, there are local government authorities that do respect mana whenua.

Sometimes Mr Speaker when some of the more media-hungry mayors hit the airwaves, yet again, with their pet hate we can overlook the positives that do happen.

I was thinking about this yesterday when Whanganui Mayor Michael Laws instructed residents that any move to add an ‘h’ to the name of Wanganui“will be fiercely resisted”.

Yes here he is, Mr Mohio, Mr Knowledgable on Maori pronunciation, placenames, history and culture.

You see Mr Speaker, Te Runanga O Tupoho, a local iwi committee have petitioned the NZ Geographic Board to put an ‘h’ in ‘Wanganui’ to spell the city ‘Whanganui’.

We in the Maori Party says that itis a fundamental human right to ensure that the integrity of the local language is upheld. Whanganui was given to the area by an ancestor over six hundred years ago. It acknowledges their existence, their identity, their status as tangata whenua.

It was tangata whenua who originally named the geographic features of the district, and retaining their tribal spelling is all about respecting that special relationship.

And yet their local authority, the Whanganui City Council, slaps them in the face by describing their decision to retain the traditional spelling of the name, Whanganui, as a“needlessly provocative gesture.

Well give me a break, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, it couldn’t be a more dramatic departure from the precedent established by Te Parawhau of Whangarei.

We will support this Bill, therefore, in optimistic hope that the legislation we are debating today will enable a benchmark for best practice to assist wayward councils back into processes which serve not to undermine and belittle, but to honour and respect the relationships they have with tangata whenua.


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