First road traffic signs in Te Reo Māori – Taihoa, Haere

By Herewini Waikato

Today vehicle drivers in the Bay of Plenty between Te Teko and Awakeri witnessed the first use of ‘Taihoa’ (Wait) and ‘Haere’ (Go) signs used by traffic managers.

The idea came from a 30-year veteran of traffic management, David Taui of Te Arawa, who wanted te reo Māori to be used in his working environment to let the language grow, and educate the multitudes who would be directed by the traffic signs in te reo Māori.

Although not yet authorised by The New Zealand Transport Agency Taui took a stand for the Māori language and opened a “30-minute window to try the panels out”.

“We have had the police stop at our rakau and we have got no opposition. Nobody has turned up today and told us we cannot use these. We have a legal traffic management plan in place to be at this site on State Highway 30 Awakeri right here, right today,” the passionate Taui said.

This is not the first time English language on signage has been challenged, with the late Hawea Vercoe from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Rotoiti determined to have  ‘Kura’ on his buses in 2006 rather than ‘School’. He eventually won support from the then government.

Today Taui and his wife Mel set up a legal traffic management worksite to safely divert vehicles around arborists working on overhanging trees onto the roads.

'That's exciting'

One of those working with the arborists’ team was Rangitane Harawira from Tūhoe and Ngāti Rongomaiwāhine who uses Taui and the team often for traffic management when required.

“There are non- Māori singers out there that are having their songs translated to Māori. But translating and being used on traffic signs, that's new.”

Dāmel Taui led the team with his Tuakana Wiremu Taui. The pair were controlling traffic with the specially carved handle creating a Pouwhenua (Māori stake of strength and stance/ traffic signs) and a whare (house-shaped head with the words ‘Taihoa and Haere).

Taui had the signs made by a friend and once completed, Pouwhenua were made and gifted to the Kaupapa.

Taui spoke with the papa of his twin Mokopuna and it was agreed the names of the Pouwhenua would be named in their memory, Pouwhenua o Te Mana and Pouwhenua o Taika Taui” (The Twin Signs in Manual Traffic Control).

Dāmel Taui at the front

“It has been pretty good. No negative stuff, heaps of waves, heaps of smiles, actually got a pukana from one lady,” Dāmel said.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has said it wants to see te reo Māori seen, spoken, and heard wherever possible, to continue the revitalisation of the language.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency land transport director Kane Patena says the layout and content of traffic signs in New Zealand are governed by the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004.

“What is permitted on traffic signs is quite restricted in terms of wording and symbols.

“We accept the current rule around traffic signs doesn’t reflect many people’s aspirations for te reo Māori and we want to see that changed,” Patena says.