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Dual signs a breach of NZTA rules

Opinion Piece

The Mayor and the council have shot themselves in the foot with their ongoing partisan efforts to change the names of Poverty Bay and Gisborne.

They will find themselves offside with the New Zealand Geographic Board in their Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay submission, thanks to an earlier piece of manoeuvering which saw dual signs placed at the highway entrances to Gisborne.

Just to remind everyone, the council colluded with the New Zealand Transport Agency some years ago to have the name Turanganui a Kiwa added to the highway entrances to the city.

However, this was in breach of NZTA’s own regulations on signs, contained in part two of its Traffic Control Devices Manual.

The relevant section on dual signs says:

“Only those places and features that have been accorded offical dual name status by the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) should be shown on traffic signs.”

And: “The incorporation of dual names will require consultation . . .”

Examination of the New Zealand place names gazetteer (the list of names approved by the NZGB), maintained by Land Information New Zealand, shows Turanganui a Kiwa is not an official name, and that there are nine places incorporating the name Gisborne.

Turanganui a Kiwa’s current status is that of a “collected” place name — one from local knowledge, history etc.

However, the interesting thing to note is that the NZGB says the feature to which the name pertains is the bay (Poverty Bay) — not the town of Gisborne, or the general locality.

So the dual name signs on the highways are in breach of the rules (and legislation). And there was no community consultation on the matter.

A reading of the council’s draft submission to the NZGB on Turanganui a Kiwa is illuminating.

It is blatantly one-sided and accords no space for alternative views other than what is presented as the Maori view.

Maori actually have different versions of the stories behind the name, and whether the name refers to the bay, the locality or a specific spot on the foreshore.

The same lack of definition has happened with the name Tairawhiti, which has been applied willy-nilly to all sorts of organisations, while we are given to understand the name applies to a much longer stretch of the East Coast than merely Gisborne.

Thanks to the council and others imposing their views on names without full and proper consultation, we now have an unnecessarily divided community, whose attention and emotions are distracted from other important issues.

According to the NZGB Place Name Gazetteer, Poverty Bay is not an official name, just a recorded one - even though it appears on maps. So the opportunity to change it has always existed. Perhaps some might prefer Cook’s original choice, Endeavour Bay, alongside the Maori name Turanganui a Kiwa.

Roger Handford