20 Jul 2011

US car firm calls new vehicle Tuatara

9:06 am on 20 July 2011

A Ngāti Koata man whose people are traditional kaitiaki of the tuatara says he's alarmed the animal's name has been used to brand a car.

An American supercar company, Shelby SuperCars, said in its marketing material that the name was inspired by the New Zealand reptile.

The Washington State-based firm says the tuatara has the fastest evolving DNA in the world, so is a perfect fit with a supercar maker.

Company founder and lead designer Jerod Shelby says the car's design specifications are so extreme, it deserved a name to match.

Roma Hippolite, whose hapū has had to fight for acknowledgement of its role as kaitiaki of tuatara, says if Shelby Cars knew the name was Māori, it could at least have done Māori the courtesy of consultation.

He says he has yet to consult the iwi, but he'd be particularly concerned if the company has trademarked the name tuatara.

Mr Hippolite says in the worst example of foreigners annexing Māori names, Moana - of Moa Hunter fame - couldn't use her own name to perform in Germany because someone had trademarked it.