A new reform for Wellington’s mayor

Wellington residents –  at least those still buying a hardcopy newspaper –  woke on Thursday to find that the shrunken Dominion-Post newspaper had given itself a temporary Maori masthead, and an apparently permanent change of name, to something that looks as though it might be the longest newspaper name anywhere in world.

I guess private businesses can do whatever they want to try to boost sales –  or in the case of newspapers, temporarily stem the decline.  And given that pundits offer odds on how much longer daily hardcopy newspapers will survive, I don’t suppose this particular marketing effort will be with us for long.  In today’s paper, they claim to have been flooded with messages of support, but in the letters to the editor, the only letter in favour was an over-long (and thus abridged) effort from the head of the Maori language commission.

What was perhaps considerably more questionable is the way the newspaper and its proprietors launched their new name to coincide with, and explicitly to celebrate, Wellington City Council’s own new Maori language policy.   Since one role of newspapers used to be to provide scrutiny and criticism of those in power, I guess we can’t expect any such scrutiny of this particular act of culture war and virtue-signalling.

Wellington City Council is a beacon of awfulness, pursuing political visions and cultural agendas that (a) aren’t really any business of local councils, and (b) seem to be a substitute for doing the basics well.    As I’ve noted here before, there are smallish things like the Island Bay cycleway –  millions and millions of dollars on something ugly, and largely useless, which the residents (a clear majority) have indicated strongly that they don’t want.  There are staggering sums wasted on convention centres, film museums, and saving an old Town Hall, and rather smaller sums (so far) devoted to plans to tip tens of millions in to help pay to extend Wellington airport runway.  And then there is a scandal of house and urban land prices.  Perhaps Wellington City Council is no worse than most other councils on this score (all are reprehensible) –  in a city with abundant land, the council is determined it won’t be used, and instead want to compel future generations to live on top of each other (often literally), while delivering house and land prices that are simply unaffordable to most.     It is like some San Francisco model (on a smaller and poorer scale), pricing out ordinary people, and in a city with some big captive businesses (central government).   Life might be sweet for the middle-aged liberal elite; shame about anyone else.

The Council’s latest initiative –  approved unanimously on Thursday –  was the new Maori language policy, aiming to make Wellington “a te reo Maori city” by 2040.   Which is puzzling –  except for the culture war/virtue-signalling angle –  given how scarce people of Maori descent/identity actually are in Wellington city (and likely to remain so, given the housing/land use policies which increasingly crowd-out lower income people –  a group Maori are overrepresented in).

If one ranks all the territorial local authorities by the percentage of the population identifying as Maori in the 2013 census, the top 10 TLAs (mostly central North Island, plus Far North and the Chatham Islands) averaged 46.3 per cent Maori.  The bottom 10 TLAs in 2013  –  all in the South Island –  averaged 6.6 per cent Maori.  Wellington City was 7.6 per cent Maori, just a touch ahead of Dunedin.

What compounds the oddity is that Wellington is one of only two TLAs in the entire country with a far larger Asian population (“Asian” of course encompassing a whole range of quite different ethnicities) than the Maori population.

Per cent of population identifying as…. (2013 Census)
Maori Asian
Auckland 10.1 21.7
Wellington city 7.6 14.9

It seems likely that the relative share of the different Asian ethnicities will have increased further in this year’s Census.

The Council claims that their goal is that the city should become a “bilingual capital”, with the aim of “making te reo a core part of Wellington’s identity by ensuring it is widely seen, heard, and spokem in the capital”.

All of which, frankly, seems highly unlikely, given the demographics, aided and abetted by the Council’s own housing and land use policies.    It isn’t, say, like Wales where efforts to save the language actually involve a language that was the heritage of most of the current residents.

Not that it stops Justin Lester and his crew of councillors.   In future, new streets will preferentially be given Maori names and (whatever this means) they plan on  “incorporating te reo in its decisionmaking processes and functions” (when roughly one in 14 residents identifies as Maori).     Some place names in the council precinct are being given Maori names now –  there was talk of the heart of the city being renamed, but the stark windswept Civic Square is barely used most of the year.   Already, the annual civic fireworks display has been shifted from Guy Fawkes to Matariki –  a “festival” barely anyone had heard of even 20 years ago.  Fortunately, councils don’t get to decide public holidays, but Mr Lester is also calling for Queen’s Birthday to be scrapped as a public holiday in favour of the same pseudo-festival Matariki (an occasion which appears to be observed mostly by taxpayer and ratepayer funded entities –  my in-box is awash with newsletters from schools proposing that I attend such events).

These people seem to be embarrassed by their own heritage (almost all the councillors appear to be of predominantly Anglo or Celtic descent).   I’m pretty sure that even in secular Wellington the churchgoing share of the population is roughly equal to the Maori share (with some overlap of course), but I can’t recall the last time the council was championing Easter celebrations to anything like the extent they champion Matariki (and nor would I want them to –  it simply isn’t the role of a council (roads and drains and rubbish –  oh, and land use)).  And while the Mayor is no doubt embarrassed that New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy, it is –  with clear public support at present.   Even civic heritage is for the chop: the lagoon down on the waterfront was named for decades for an eminent former mayor (not one of my particular political sympathies) but now the councillors –  but probably no one one much else –  want to call it Whairepo Lagoon.  But no doubt Mr Lester and his team will feel better for it, having (as he puts it) provided a lead for New Zealand –  including most of the rest of New Zealand where Maori actually largely live.

I’ve another idea for Mr Lester and his bunch of culture warriors.  Guess who Wellington is named for?  The dreadful old Tory, the Duke of Wellington –  former soldier and Prime Minister of Britain and its empire of which we are now apparently supposed to be ashamed.  He might have beaten Napoleon, but what’s that to anyone now, here?   The Wellington City Council’s buildings are on Victoria Street (yes, she the Queen-Empress) and Wakefield St  (Edward Gibbon, master colonial expansionist –  who spent time in prison for abducting an heiress).   Lambton Quay is named for chairman of the New Zealand Company, Cuba and Tory streets for two of the first ships carrying settlers and the bacillus of western culture to Wellington.  And so on.

I hesitate to mention it lest I give someone an idea, but this particular virus is already afoot elsewhere, with a story recently about people calling for name changes in Levin, Hamilton, and Gisborne (although, to be honest, and notwithstanding the history, I have some sympathy in respect of Poverty Bay).  But why stop there?  Surely the culture warrior left must be embarrassed to live in a country with places named for

Lord Auckland

Lord Nelson  (with streets named for Hardy, Victory and Trafalgar)

Sir Charles Napier  (“The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed”)

Lord Palmerston (twice over)

and when our third largest city is named for an Oxford college, itself named (with such uncomfortable particularity) for the Messiah, when a southern city’s name celebrates Scotland and its leading role in the empire, and when Hastings surely evokes memories of militarism and conquest,

then surely it is past time for reform.  Lets just junk our heritage –  the roots that built one of the better societies on earth (amid all its flaws) –  for some expensive feel-good campaign.

Or perhaps the Council could refocus and actually make Wellington an affordable city, for Europeans, Maori, Pacific people, Asians and whoever else chooses to live here.  It really isn’t so hard –  except of course that it runs head on into the planners’ mentality that pervades our local government.  They know best…..and we’ll suffer it.




34 thoughts on “A new reform for Wellington’s mayor

  1. One is usually a Queen-Empress, not Queen-Emperor, although I should note there was once a woman who was King of Poland.


  2. Every now and then the anti-monarchists strut their stuff, make a lot of noise, and wave their banners. Until, they are asked what mechanism they want to use to appoint (or elect) a head of state, and to define what reserve powers the appointee electee will have. And then they shut up.


  3. Lester and his sycophants are using the WCC ratepayers for their own crazy ideas. Is there any way to get rid of these perverts ? IN USA there is a recall process and an impeachment process – in NZ nothing ?
    A lot of money has alreasdy been wasted on new signs at the WCC rubbish dump where the new signs are in Maori with English in smaller letters underneath.


    • There is an election now only 15 months away. I don’t suppose anything is likely to change – much of this stuff goes down well with the very liberal, social-justice warrior, Treaty-guilt voters of central Wgtn. (And, as much to the point, the right doesn’t manage to put up compelling alternative candidates.)


      • In all seriousness why don’t you stand Michael (obviously setting aside the serious damage it could do to your mental health)?

        Liked by 1 person

      • In all seriousness, because I live in a ward that has some of the highest Green votes in the country (complemented by high Labour votes), and even with an STV voting system when there are only two councillors elected in the ward there is zero chance of someone from the right, or even centre-right, being elected. If there was ever to be hope of resistance, it would have to start in some other ward.


  4. The policy aims to make te reo a core part of Wellington’s identity by ensuring it is widely seen, heard and spoken in the capital.

    “We are pushing this because it is the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do and Wellington should be leading.

    New Zealand needs to embrace our unique sense of identity and this is how we can support asserting that,” Lester said.

    His council was future-focused and part of a generation that saw the importance of te reo, he said.
    “It is a public statement of our commitment to the language. An acknowledgement of the mana of Māori culture and values, of our joint history and of the whakapapa of our rohe.”
    [“You can’t demand respect: you have to earn it” JBP]

    Deputy Mayor Jill Day, who leads the Māori partnerships portfolio, said 94 per cent of policy submissions supported the move and this was a strong mandate from Wellingtonians.
    [A Mugabe result. Astroturfing?]

    I was watching a documentary a while back about Iraq and it brought home to me what a gift a second language would be: a key to the Middle East or Russia or South America or China etc. Do we need a key to NZ – no thanks; we already have one?
    We may seem cruel rejecting Te Reo, but those Maori who “cannot live in [our] culture” are also rejecting us. They are also rejecting an identity as New Zealander.

    The two most effective types of psychotherapy are cognative behavioural therapy and [?]. Both are evidence based and involve disputing negative ideas. In the Maori ward case in Taranaki the head of the Psychotherapists Assn claimed that Pakeha are sick and in denial. Some researchers in indigenous health have warned about the dangers of cultural revival and a “toxic metanarrative” . Yet Susan Devoy and half the government ride in the toxic metanarrative boat. They are adding fuel to the fire.


  5. What arrogance from Lester:: “We are pushing this because it is the right thing to do. ” Right for whom ? certainly not for me or the majority of NZers.


    • Agreed, Te Reo is a waste of time and a waste of money making everyone who does not want to learn have to learn. The standard of English here is already so bad, the money is best spent getting everyone to learn better english.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, man, if you goad the cultural left into erasing colonial heritage, renaming Victoria Sts and so on, they just might do it.

    More seriously… exclusionary housing policy in Wellington, as you describe it, is seriously dismissive of the interests of low income people, and as you point out, Maori in particular. It’s pretty egregious to see the Council engaging in cultural window-dressing while running with policies that actually exclude the people whose culture they’re supposedly trying to promote. This is an angle which I think would get some traction in the mainstream media and we should talk about it more.


  7. At a time when we need all children to be able to read, so they do not get to adulthood and end up in Jail, we need to ensure all children are able to read and write. All children.
    Instead where is the issue of Te Reo coming from? Suddenly all councils are being pushed to have Te Reo budgets in their annual plans. Why is it that there is a Maori committee sitting beside the NZ Local Govt Assoc. which is meant to represent all councils in NZ.?
    There is a serious need for someone to do the sums to see just how much money is being spent in regard to the needs of Maori.
    There is also a desperate need for the full reform of the Resource Management Act, and finding a different system for funding infrastructure. Until this is addressed too many people will continue to be squeezed out of home ownership. I would have thought that with so many left wing leaders who dominate the Local Govt Association that they would have these 2 issues at the front of their agendas.
    Sooner or later middle NZ will revolt and demand better from Govts, both at local or central govt.


    • The whole system is broken.
      1. there ‘s a coalition between the sector that benefits from immigration and the internationalist left and that accounts for 95% of the media (as far as I can see).
      2. In government ideology has been institutionalised. You won’t get a job if you express the wrong views.
      I wonder if we could use technology to get around this?
      a. Realme – a verified identity and feedback system outside of media controlled channels.
      b. A place where arguments are set out by a set of rules where members representing positions have their own space. [unlike Wikipedia where they have editing wars]


      • To: sorethumb: you are right. NZ immigration agents (foremost the ex-minister of immigration) are making a lot of money selling NZ “down the river”.
        re 2. :: Years ago I was interviewed for a job (in IT ) – when asked about Treaty of W. – I told them that everybody should be equal in NZ – probably why I did not get that job 🙂


    • Yes – recent articles in Dom Post highlight the lack of literarcy in NZ. The solution, to my way of thinking , is that schools concentrate on teaching basics like English and arithmetics, instead of the PC stuff. The school curriculum has been hijacked by the “right thinking” brigade.


  8. Excellent column Michael. I despair of this city. Its pc culture and politics are stultifying. I think this truly awful Council are focusing on nonsense like this because happily all their other useless extravagant ideas have fallen over. But I expect these post modernist neo Marxists will be returned again in 15 months. As for the Dompost, a wretched joke of a newspaper and a disgrace for a capital city.


  9. Many comments link support for Te Reo with Marxism and left wing politics. Certainly there is a correlation but that is all. This site introduced me to an article by Ranginui Joseph Isaac Walker, DCNZM and I hope to read more of his writings – I expect I will disagree with what he wrote but at least it will be well written. I would rather hear support for Teo Reo and Maori culture from a better informed and more intelligent source than most local politicians.

    The solution to the problems with Wellington, New Plymouth and Auckland local council’s policies is more democracy. With the ubiquity of modern internet there is nothing stopping us returning to Athenian democracy where each voter decided without election r representatives. However I am modern and would allow women and slaves to vote. Seriously there are some technical issues where a sensible person delegates a decision (heart attack treatment for example) but my local council decides what public art works I need. Thinking about it my heart doctor did explain what he intended doing and did ask for my approval before going ahead. Why not the same for cycle lanes, road signs in Te Reo, new public libraries, redesign of parking in Highbury, etc?
    Why not universal democracy – a recent visit to Switzerland left me highly impressed – if NZ went the step further and returned to Athenian democracy we might once again lead the world as we did with votes for women.


      • As said I like democracy but when you trust the public to make its own mind up it is often conservative – for example some Swiss cantons were slow to give women the vote.
        It is interesting to guess what the public would do if they had direct power. For example I’d expect capital punishment and three strikes and more prisons all of which I’d be strenuously against however if I can’t make a case that convinces other voters that is my failure.
        Meanwhile distrust of politicians leads to Trump and Brexit (not that I’m necessarily against Brexit) and some weird populist politicians throughout Europe so maybe it is time to let the public decide directly (in which case you I might be fighting about abortion).


  10. A friend of mine has just been to his case manager. He turns down manufacturing jobs “I don’t wanna do that..” I’m not sure what sort of employment he thinks is suitable for him? However he takes home about $300/wk and tops it up trading on Trademe. My wife was shocked as she earns the same making beds on the minimum wage. She leaves home at 8:30 and gets back at about 3:30 and only has about a half-hour break. In winter she gets a couple of days off a week but in summer hardly gets any.


    • If your wife wants to take it another step and add grooming to her responsibilities, she can earn $25 to $30 an hour for perhaps 15 minutes effort. Cleaning poop does put people off that sort of work though. They are severely short of staff with patients practically begging for groomers to even decide to show up on the appointed time.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Bob Atkinson
    Many comments link support for Te Reo with Marxism and left wing politics. Certainly there is a correlation but that is all.
    You will find a link here
    Treaty Debate 1 2010

    The first paragraph needs tidying up

    And when you consider social engineering and “nation building” (top down identity) you might draw a bow out of this?


    • Mr Thumb: I battled through academic-speak in your last link and I kept finding good stuff. However it did seem to be similar conclusion to communists in my youth saying well Russia/Cuba/North Korea have failed (yes I did have a friend who thought N.Korea was building a utopia) but they didn’t do communism properly except this article refer to multi-culturalism that doesn’t work in the same light. Social cohesion and civic identity instead of ethnicity sounds sane to me. The day I look forward to is all the questionaires having ethnicity removed and replaced with atheist(Y/N), support universal child benefit(Y/N), etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wellington City Council members are stealing my Rates money pushing their own agendas which were not disclosed at the earlier election. The minister of Local Government should sack this council.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This post is so spot on. I worked briefly at Wellington City Council when Fran Wilde was mayor. She was not PC, but many of the bloody useless councilors were, although not as bad as it seems today. There is a place for bi-culturalism, of course, but it should be by mutual consent and consultation, and not foisted on an unsuspecting public by culture warriors who get elected to councils through name recognition and not ability. I note Sir Bob Jones, is on the same page as Michael.
    I have a great interest in the issue because, co-incidentally, because my first novel has already been written, the blog touches on name changes for towns and cities around New Zealand and race issues. it is called Proud and will be out on Amazon in September. Here is my website for more information http://www.alastaircarthew.com Local body politics and, of course national politics both have the piss taken out of them.


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