These signs were proposed at a development session of the F.I.R.S.T. Foundation trustees and advisors.

The main issue behind the proposed signs was safety

As you will know, many of our marae have kohanga reo, kura kaupapa or homework centres associated with them. Others have sports grounds nearby. As a consequence, there are children from toddlers to teenagers there almost every day. Keeping them inside the marae boundaries is not always possible, as some go home for lunch, others cross the roadway to get to cars or horses or to chase their footballs and for other legitimate reasons. As we are aware, with children, enthusiasm often replaces caution and safe patterns of behaviour.

Likewise when tangihanga, poukai or other hui are held, the capacity of  marae grounds to hold all parked vehicles is insufficient, and they overflow onto and park along the surrounding roadways. Especially at tangihanga, people walk to and  from their cars and buses in both daylight and after dark, crossing or walking along the roadway. Buses
are often parked in places which severely restrict drivers' vision. To add to the danger, the old people usually wear black or dark coloured clothing.

Our marae are social centres where activities involving the locals occur almost every day, but increasingly they are used by school groups especially of primary school age. Their presence adds to the potential dangerous mix of motorised traffic and pedestrians.

There is no doubt that marae constitute potential traffic hazards for both motorists and pedestrians and should be suitable marked.  

The second issue is one of identification
In many regions of the country, such as near Tauranga, other parts of the Bay of Plenty, The Far North and Kaikohe, Rotorua, Otorohanga, Gisborne and Ruatoria, there are many marae within short distances of each other. Around Gisborne and Kaitaia as good examples, there are more than a dozen marae within eight kilometres of these town centres. Visitors, especially those from outside the region, often do not know which is which. Currently some marae have small AA directional signs but these are generally placed high up on power poles and are difficult to see, especially at night. Clearer road signs such as those depicted will not only warn both motorists and pedestrians that marae constitute potential traffic hazards, but with the supplementary sign designating
the marae by name, they will assist in identifying which marae is which, and help to reduce the number of lost or confused travellers.

The third issue is cultural identity
Our country's distinctiveness is based not on its scenery, its relatively open spaces or its green pastoral image, but on the presence of its Tangata Whenua. According to tourist surveys, Maori are a major attraction for tourists, whether they are low-cost, low-spending backpackers, middle-range tourist groups or high spending independent
travellers. If tourists want to experience open spaces we cannot compete with nearby Australia. If they want to see rain forests, clear water, coastal or mountain scenery there are dozens of other places vying for tourists that have scenery as stunning as we can offer. What is distinct about Aotearoa is us, Te Iwi Maori.

Compared to a generation ago, Maori has become a valuable part of our schooling system. At both primary and secondary level, Maori is a valued and informative part of the curriculum. Almost all secondary schools offer Maori language as an option, and at primary and intermediate schools te reo me ona tikanga is embedded in the curriculum. As their children learn about their Maori neighbours and fellow citizens so more
and more adult New Zealanders (Kiwis), are beginning to appreciate the importance of Maori society, culture and values to Aotearoa, with increasing numbers of them attend Maori language and tikanga classes. This welcome change in direction in our public education system means that an increasing proportion of the next generation will have an
understanding and deeper appreciation of Maori and our part in comtemporary and future New Zealand, and a greater realisation that our past has been ethnocentric and Anglophile at the expense of  Maori, Pacific and other cultures.
Fourthly, this is a matter of tino rangatiratanga
To retain a view of the value of Maori culture as haka parties in tourist hotel concerts or to tourist signs noting the presence of marae like other tourist attractions such as herb gardens or antique shops, is to devalue it and work against the trends in education. The marae is the centre piece of every hapu's identity, it is their primary home, the nexus of their pride as a people and kin-group and their last remaining turangawaewae (place to stand tall)

Marae should be properly marked. They are important cultural centers for the one-in-six of the national population who identify as Maori and for the one in four of the population who are Maori, plus their in-laws. To Maori, appropriate signage is a matter of ethnic and national pride, it is also a matter of tino rangatiratanga , besides being a matter of traffic safety.     


UPDATE ON 31 March 2004

Transit NZ  is the authorizing body for signage on all State Highways. For all other roads, other than state highways the approving authority is the Territorial Local Council (City or District Councils). To ensure that the authorizing body does not object to this proposed sign and removes it you should seek their approval before erection.

Some local authorities have already given approval for this signage on local roads within their jurisdiction. For example signs will be erected at marae in the Waikato with LTA approval ( see sign in situ at Waahi Paa). Discussion with some other local authorities are currently underway

If you would like further assistance on this matter such as help with an approach to your district council please do not hesitate to contact us.


KOKIRI PAETAE Article November 2004