Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bloody foreigners

‘Tonight is about democracy in Auckland where we are
presenting for the good people of Howick.’
—Botany MP Pansy Wong

‘This is a good day for Howick, Pakuranga and Botany.
They have a government that listens.’
—Local Government Minister Rodney Hide

—front-page headline, Howick & Pakuranga Times

What was being trumpeted here last week was the success
of an amendment to the Auckland super-city legislation.
For the south-eastern ward of the new council, the Local
Government Commission had proposed the name Te
Irirangi, but local people (some of the non-Maori ones
anyway) rose up in wrath at what one of them called an
‘appalling name’ that was difficult to pronounce. The
Howick & Pakuranga Times ran a campaign against Te
Irirangi, promoted a petition that went to Parliament and
won the day: the ward will be known as Howick.

The name is that of a 19th-century English aristocrat, the
third Earl Grey, who before he succeeded to his father’s
title was known as Viscount Howick, that being the name
of the family’s stately home in Northumberland. Grey was
Colonial Secretary in the British government at the time
eastern Auckland was being occupied by white settlers.
He never came near New Zealand, let alone the part of it
that bears his name to this day.

Tara Te Irirangi was the paramount chief of Ngai Tai, the
tangata whenua at the time the settlers arrived. According
to Brian Rudman in the New Zealand Herald he was a
‘friend to the newcomers, learning their language and
supporting the new settler government.’ Nice of him. He
got a street named after him, and Otara’s name derives
from him too. But the Local Government Commision’s
proposal was clearly a suburb too far for some. ‘The name
has come from nowhere,’ thundered the editor of the
H & P Times
. ‘It doesn’t mean anything to people who
have lived here for a long time.’

Go figure. Rudman wrote an excellent column about it here.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, the Invercargill
City Council has roundly rejected the idea of calling a new
street Ti Kouka Way, as suggested by a council officer, and
opted for Kakariki Way instead. Not so egregious, you
might think, but Ti Kouka (the cabbage tree common in the
area of the street) missed out because, according to the
Southland Times, ‘councillors agreed it might be difficult to
pronounce.’ One said it sounded like ‘coconut.’ Another said
it would be a hard one to explain to a call centre in Delhi.

That's the trouble with these pesky foreign languages, which
is what te reo still clearly is to many Pakeha: they're just
not English enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"For they themselves have said it,
And greatly to Howick's credit

That they have an English name, that
They have an E..E..E..E.English name"

Adapated from HMZ Pinafore ... With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan