The r and the e: Lobby if you want ’em

I agree with DPF, that for the sake of historical correctness, Wellington’s Majoribanks Street should probably be changed to Marjoribanks, and Nairn Street should probably be changed to Nairne, since that’s how the names are properly spelt. This is precisely the argument I made with regard to Whanganui, and as DPF says it’s no different. But as is so often the case, the idiots of the KBR are reflexively shrieking “racism” because Wellington City Council aren’t recommending a change to the NZ Geographic Board.

The lack of a change is not racism: it’s that nobody seems to care. Whanganui Māori got their name change after decades of concerted and organised lobbying, public demonstration, private petition, backroom negotiation, research and campaigning on the topic. What would be racist is to expect that these changes in Wellington — trivial though they are — should go through as of right just because one historian thinks they should. The decision to change an entrenched name is and must remain a matter of civil society deliberation: those who favour the change lobby for it; those who oppose it lobby against it, both bring whatever evidence and principled arguments they can to the discourse, and those authorities empowered to decide the matter do so in accordance with appropriate legislation and customs. So, to those who want the names of Stewart Marjoribanks and Alexander Nairne properly recognised, I say: start lobbying!


9 thoughts on “The r and the e: Lobby if you want ’em

  1. All I can say is, if we do change the name of Majoribanks street, will we then all have to start pronouncing it correctly? Where “correctly” means in the manner that Stewart Marjoribanks did, which sounds like “marsh-banks”. It’s one of those odd English surnames that has a pronunciation at odds with its spelling.

  2. So let me get this straight, Lew – a change can’t come without some support in the affected community, but it doesn’t need majority support? That public support beneath a certain level is absolutely necessary, but above a certain level is irrelevant? Seems you’re splitting hairs. And that’s leaving aside the fact that you argued that any lobbying for the status quo on the Wanganui/Whanganui issue was illegitimate, if not actively dangerous.

  3. Hugh, you need to go back and read the posts again. I expressly argued that Laws et al had a legitimate claim, only that their claim was not as strong as the iwi claim (and that the two were mutually exclusive).

    My argument was that it was a matter of cultural ownership: if the cultural “owners” of the name want it changed and can demonstrate legitimate grounds for it to be changed, then it should — not must — be changed. But not as a matter of right, but as a result of public discourse. That’s as it should be.

    Who the “cultural owners” of Majoribanks and Nairn’s names are in this context is a bit more tricky to determine, but the same process applies.


  4. I’d change the names back to maori names. By doing that we could use the occasion to reiterate the values associated with the names and why they are named the names they are named. It seems that currrently the major reason for the names is that the individuals had some association with the colonisation of this country. If the current names are maintained then they should be spelt correctly.

  5. Marty, given that the two streets in question were invented and named by the NZ Company, what do you suppose the original Māori names were?


  6. I’m sure that the place/area was named in many are varied ways for actions of historical figures and associated activities relating to tangata whenua. Perhaps investigation of this could uncover some interesting insights.

    My angle is that names were/are descriptors, they explained the history and what happened around the area. They connected the people and the land. This approach would give us opportunities to bring people together via shared knowledge and understanding (or the start of it at least) of the indigenous culture.

    I am not sure if I see the naming of streets, even invented ones, for people who have tenuous connections to this land, as useful. Yes people can be remembered and it is not revisionist – I’m not trying to hide or pretend things didn’t happen. And I accept that anyone can remember or celebrate anyone – it just seems like an opportunity to think laterally, in terms of the outcomes we are trying to reach. The major outcome I am thinking about is increasing connection and understanding of our shared heritiage by understanding te ao maori better.

  7. I’ve got a grip – the serious issues aren’t going to be solved without looking at the causes and working them into the solutions. Sometimes the trivial can show insights into the deeper serious issues and why things are the way they are, and they can be fun to mull too. As I said above it is not a major and if they want to keep the names then spell them right.

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