10 Oct 2014

Bay of Plenty council adopt Maori title

5:57 pm on 10 October 2014

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has voted unanimously to adopt a Māori title. The name 'Toi Moana' will now co-exist alongside the authority's English name.

The councillor for the Mauao Māori constituency says the idea has been discussed for at least the last five years and the new name ticks all the boxes.

Awanuiarangi Black.

Awanuiarangi Black. Photo: SUPPLIED

Awanuiarangi Black says at first, the council spent time discussing whether a Māori name should even be used before talks began to decide on an appropriate term, and there have been a number of impasses.

"With Māori very particular when it comes to choosing names, it was important to reach a consensus. The new title relates to the name the Bay of Plenty is already known by, Te Moana ā Toi, which represents the area's coastal dwellings and the word 'toi' has a lot of good meanings including to remain or sustain. It's also easy to pronounce for those people who are not fluent in Te Reo Māori."

Mr Black said the Bay of Plenty Regional Council was the first and for a long time the only council to have dedicated Māori seats.

"That was achieved courageously by former councillors who understood the need for better representation of Māori due to the demographics in the area. There's been discussions for a while now to have a Māori name for the council to reflect the bicultural nature of the community and also to recognise the significance of Māori representation and the Māori voice.

"It's taken quite some time, a number of years to achieve. They were unable to agree upon a name. There were discussions around whether there should be one and then what it should be. It's taken too long, it's been discussed for a least two terms, but one of the issues faced was deciding on exactly what it should be.

"The council covers a huge geographical area and when it comes to Māori names, they are very important and therefore getting agreement about what that name should be is challenging."

Awanuiarangi Black said in time, the council's Māori name may become the preferred one. He said using 'Toi Moana' is less of a mouthful than saying the English one, and he loves the new title.

"The decision gives me optimism. The acceptance of Te Reo Māori and many Māori things wasn't accepted at all, but the attitudinal shift is almost tangible now.

"It's not such a big thing any longer to pronounce Māori words properly, nor is it seen as foreign that there can be dual names. In fact, it's being embraced by the wider community as identity markers for them," he said.

"It's a brave thing for the council to do as some of its constituencies may not necessarily be that supportive of the idea, but it's the way of the future. All councils should adopt dual names."

Mr Black said pronouncing Māori may inspire a bit of cultural cringe, but that is derived from fear and New Zealand becomes a stronger nation by its people facing their fears.

"Society in general is reflecting this better relationship and using the language of the land and embracing it as 'our' language, not as just that of tāngata whenua, but all of ours. It seems like a natural move to adopt Māori names wherever possible."