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By Trevor Amundsen.

With the recent weather-related damage to our state highway system, one would have thought that our national roading entity, Waka Kotahi, would be 100% focussed on the required repairs and upgrades to our roading network. It is apparent this is not the case as they are also dedicating significant resources to the inclusion of Maori translations of the text on road signs. Most of us would have thought this would be of lesser importance at this time, but not so. Waka Kotahi is accepting public submissions on this until the end of this month after which; I presume they will just charge ahead with their planned changes.

was curious about what is proposed so downloaded their documentation on the proposal which had explanations of their thinking and examples of what can be expected. Their documentation included five reasons for the change. These are:

Safety Enhancement Tourism Promotion

​Language Protection Cultural Enhancement Enhanced Social Cohesion

I find their rationale to be odd at best, more likely, an example of bureaucratic stupidity. Of these five reasons, the top two are absolute rubbish. You do not improve safety by making road signs more confusing and it does nothing for tourism promotion when the tourists are already here, and very confused by our signs. The changes will do something for ‘Language Protection’ but the bottom two seem to be rationale dreamed up by bureaucrats to justify what they want to do. It also ignores the main valid reason that I can see for changing our road signs which is the improvement of road safety.

Our road signs must convey the information they seek to convey as clearly and as simply as possible. This is essential if we want to keep road users safe, drivers behaving as they are expected to behave and tourists and other users reaching their destinations without confusion. The proposed changes do not adhere to these principles and offer miscreants the legal defence of “I did not understand the road sign”.

n the issue of conveying information clearly overseas experience, and common sense, would indicate that the most widely understood language should be easiest to see. For New Zealand this means the English version should be larger and be the top phrase. The Maori phrase would be underneath and preferably in another font and/or colour. For example the sign for Detour Ends could be changed to Detour Ends followed by Otinga Autaki in italica and in a different colour. What is proposed, however, is Otinga Autaki followed by Detour Ends at the bottom. It is acknowledged that the English words will all be capitals however any tourist will be confused before they have had the opportunity to read the whole sign. The English or commonly understood words must be first and the translation should follow in another font.

t would also be useful if the bureaucrats came to realise that not all signs should have a translation as the translation is too verbose and will confuse. Just consider these examples proposed by Waka Kotahi;

Ata Haere Ina Maku​​​ - Slow when wet

Ope Hikoi Kei Mua​​​ Walkers ahead

Ope Eke Pahikara Kei Mua​​Cyclists ahead

Te Ara Puaki Ka Putu 100M​​Expressway ends 100M​

Difficult to read signs such as these at legal speeds of up to 110 Km/hour. Bearing in mind you have the Maori phrase at the start of the sign; will you get to “Cyclists Ahead” before you end up with lycra all over your grill.

The destination signs will also cause some confusion. It is proposed that the Maori version will be on the left whereas the English version will be on the right. I can envisage a lot of tourists holding up the fast lane as they don’t want to miss Auckland or go to that other place on the left by mistake.

Another issue that should be addressed is clarity in the Maori phrases. For example I have come to understand, through a recent letter to the Editor, that Waka now means more than canoe. It seems it now means “anything that moves that does not breathe”. This definition covers the use of Waka for shipping, roading and air travel. But not for buses however, which are Pahi.

I do not have anything against the use of, and growth in the use of the Maori language. I do however strongly believe that our road signs must be clear and easy for all people to read quickly. What is proposed will not do this and we should fight this; so get your submissions in and do something positive for the road toll.


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