The public consultation proposing to hold them in both English and Māori has become a political issue ahead of the upcoming elections.
In late May, a public consultation was launched in New Zealand, proposing the installation of bilingual road signs throughout the country in English and Māori, the language of the country’s native population. The consultation was promoted by the New Zealand transport body, Waka Kotahi amongst others, according to which having signs in both languages would be a good way to recognize and revive the Māori language, but also to bring people closer to indigenous culture and Promoting social integration.
However, the initiative was particularly opposed by centre-right and conservative parties, making it a divisive political issue in view of the parliamentary elections on 14 October.
Bilingual signs are standard in many countries and regions of the world that have multiple official languages, from Scotland to Wales, from Canada to several Italian regions. In New Zealand, however, this does not occur systematically, although the Māori language is one of the three official languages, along with English and New Zealand Sign Language. According to supporters of the initiative, signs written in Māori would also be one of the ways to encourage the revitalization of the native language and culture, which had been harshly suppressed during the colonial period (New Zealand, whose native name is Aotearoa). was a British colony from 1841 to 1907 and became an independent country only in 1947).
Commenting on the consultation, National Party spokesman Simeon Brown said road signs in two languages would “confuse” people and would cost heavily. Brown, a spokesman for the country’s main centre-right opposition party, said that “we all speak English, and therefore (the signs) should be in English.” David Seymour, leader of the liberal and right-leaning ACT party, said that the purpose of road signs should be to “communicate information in a language the driver can understand”, not as a way of “demonstrating virtue or directing society”. In “.
Labor Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the opposition was only turning the double language on the placards into a culture battle for political purposes. Talking to NZ site MaterialJustice and Regional Development Minister Kiritapu Allan, who is also an official in the Ministry of Transport, said the centre-right’s comments were an “insult” to New Zealanders and their IQ, and added that “the rest of the world should embrace bilingualism”. and multilingualism.’
Later, the National Party clarified that it did not want to oppose bilingualism, but maintained that the issue was not a priority problem.
The Labor Party has long engaged in a range of initiatives to address inequalities between non-Māori and Māori, who make up more than 16 per cent of the population. Traditionally, however, conservative parties exploit issues related to the recognition of indigenous rights for political purposes. Debbie Ngareva Packer, co-leader of the Māori Party, which currently has only two seats in parliament, told radio new zealand Brown’s comments are “an ignorant and dangerous way to do politics”.
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