NZ Transport Agency switches to English name first

Photo: ODT files
The road-building agency is believed to be the first government department to dump its te reo Māori name first in favour of its English name. File photo
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is no more. It’s now NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi.

The road-building agency is believed to be the first government department to dump its te reo Māori name first in favour of its English name.

The coalition agreement between National and New Zealand First included requiring public service departments to “have their primary name in English, except those specifically related to Māori”.

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters criticised the practice of using te reo names for government departments, saying “communication is about comprehension and understanding”.

A transport agency spokeswoman said no formal directive had been received, “however we are aware of the policy of the new Government that public service organisations should have their primary name in English, and we are taking appropriate actions to give effect to this policy”.

She said the costs associated with the change would be modest, as the design work for a new logo had been completed in-house and additional changes would be limited to replacing signs at its offices.

The direct costs of adding the words Waka Kotahi to its name in 2020 were less than $1000, plus $5800 on legal costs for trademarking the new logo.

The name Waka Kotahi was trademarked in 2008 and the full name Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and associated logo were trademarked in 2019.

Last month, Peters said: “How can you have a waka on the road?

“The majority of New Zealanders want Waka Kotahi, this so-called boat on the road, to actually fix the potholes up. If you ask the Māori in Hokianga and the East Coast what do they want, they want the road fixed and not this tokenism.”

Peters campaigned on stripping government departments of te reo names, saying at the time it was “not an attack on the Māori language – it’s an attack on the elite virtue-signallers who have hijacked language for their own socialist means”.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown said he was pleased NZTA had been proactive in giving effect to the Government’s policy that all public service organisations should have their primary name in English, except for those specifically related to Māori.

The New Zealand Herald is seeking comments from Peters.