Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi was opened in December 2021. Photo / LDR / Diane McCarthy
By Diane McCarthy, Local Democracy Reporter
Ōpōtiki District Council has decided, against recommendations from staff, to install a sign on the side of Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi explaining that it is a library.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the council voted to have an aluminium sign painted with the words "Ōpōtiki District Library" in a font half the size of the Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi letters, attached to the barge board at the top of the King Street side of the building.
The sign is expected to cost around $1200 plus GST.*
The $4 million library, built with the help of central government funding through Kānoa, was opened in December 2021 with the name Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi, which had been gifted to the building by Whakatōhea kaumatua Te Wheki Porter, with the support of Te Riaki Amoamo, five years earlier.
In November last year, councillors asked staff to look into adding a sign to the building in response to feedback they had received that, for visitors not familiar with the town, there was confusion about the location of the library.
The issue lit up Ōpōtiki social media pages, with some, including former Coast councillor Louis Rāpihana, feeling that any new signage added would be disrespectful to the name gifted to the building.
One commenter said the adding of the sign would "colonise" the name of the building.
Others felt a sign saying "library", visible to anyone driving along the street, which could be understood by everyone, would simply be more practical and make the building easier for visitors to find.
Councillors were invited to a wananga with Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board on 16 February to discuss the issue. All elected members attended, with the exception of councillor Barry Howe.
A 15-page report about signage, received at this week's council meeting from community services group manager Anna Hayward stated that, at that meeting, councillors had been addressed by Porter, who spoke about "the importance of names".
Julie Williams "was clear she did not think it was appropriate for any signage to be added to the front of the building, a position supported by trust board iwi development manager Danny Paruru and Mr Porter," the report said but went on to say that there was consensus from those present that additional signage may support the community and visitors to know where the library was.
Hayward's report provided four options for councillors to consider - remain with the status quo by not adding a sign to the building, add a vinyl sign using a range of languages to the front window of the building, add additional text that aligns with the current Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi wording to the barge board, at a cost of $2885 plus GST, or add a flat, aluminium sign to the barge board at the top of the building.
Hayward's recommendation was for the multilingual signage being added to the front windows as it was a cheaper option that would not diminish the building's name. It would also not be easily visible to anyone driving along the street.
Councillor Tom Brooks said he had been at the meeting with Whakatōhea and felt that it was very positive, but, reading the report, he wondered if he had been at the same meeting as the report writer.
"We came to a consensus, I thought, that it would be a sign on the corner of King and Church streets with [lettering half the size of the building's name] so that people driving along the road could see."
Councillor Dean Petersen agreed. He asked Hayward why she had recommended the window signage, when the barge board sign had been what had been agreed on between Whakatōhea and the council at the meeting.
Hayward said it was because the council had money in the budget to cover the $525 cost of the window signage but not for the two barge board options.
Mayor David Moore said, "As far as the cost goes, we're talking about a minimal amount of money for a very expensive building."
He said, personally, he was comfortable with the building as it was.
"But if [adding a library sign] keeps some members of the public happy and doesn't upset our iwi partners I'm open to it.
"I don't know how it ever came up that we were changing the name. It was only ever about adding some wording to the building. I thought it was a great meeting (with Whakatōhea) that cleared the air about that.
"It is a council building and at the end of the day we do have the choice to do what we want to do, but we do have to have consideration of the aspirations of iwi. We came away from that meeting in agreement that wording should go on one side of the building, so that it doesn't detract from the name."
Brooks tabled a motion to adopt the aluminium signage and councillors voted in favour of it.
Howe abstained from voting, saying he was happy with the signage the way it was and thought the money could have been better spent on something else.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air