The Bay of Plenty Times has revealed the proposed name for the new institution that will come from merger of the Waiariki Institute of Technology and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. It is likely to be Toi Oho Mai Institute of Technology. Having found out the proposed name, the Times was then presented with a quandry: how can we make this into an article that is longer than 100 words? In a stroke of genius that they no doubt regard as investigative journalism, they decided to ring around and find someone who would be unhappy with the name so that they could create a zinger of an opening line: “A proposed name for Bay of Plenty’s newly merged polytechnic has been revealed, but not everyone is happy with it.”
Kelvin Clout, Tauranga City Councillor, Deputy Mayor and heir apparent to Stuart Crosby’s mayoral chains, obliged. Firstly in a leaked email he claimed that he agreed “with a concerned resident” that Toi Oho Mai was an “unfortunate choice for a name or brand, difficult to spell, pronounce and remember”. Three three-letter words may indeed be very difficult for our Deputy Mayor to spell, pronounce and remember, but that doesn’t give me a lot of faith in the effort he is putting into his readings for Council. I assume that the concerned resident is Pākehā and old enough to remember a time when Māori knew their place.
Doubling down on his ridiculous email complaint, he told the Times that “I do feel quite strongly that the best thing would be something easily said every day,” that people would struggle with the name and it gives no sense of location. Kelvin Clout has, in three short statements revealed himself as an ignorant racist. When he says “something easily said every day,” he means of course some words in English which is spoken every day, unlike our other official language, Māori, which is only spoken by Māori and a few unbearable liberals. When he says “people” will struggle, he means Pākehā will struggle, and it is really not fair to challenge “people” to pronounce words from the original language of the non-people of this area; after all, the non-people were beaten fair and square in 1864. Finally when he says the name gives no sense of place, he means in regards any history that matters which is the history after the town of Tow-wrong-a was established post-confiscation.
Hey Kelvin, we’re still here, buddy. I’m proud of our reo (that means “language,” Kelvin). It is a language founded in the land, the sea, the whakapapa, and the stories of our ancestors who arrived here 1,000 years ago as Pacific Islanders and became tāngata whenua (that means “people of the land,” Kelvin). It is the language of this place, of Tauranga Moana. You moved here 25 years ago and now claim it as home. You’re welcome, but don’t forget that we are the tuakana here (that means, “elder sibling,” Kelvin). We’re not just a voter bloc that didn’t vote for you; we are the Treaty partner of your Council.You have an obligation to Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga as an elected official of the Crown to protect our place, language and role, to ensure we are active participants in any decision you make and to partner with us.
Toi Oho Mai can be translated many different ways, and given it is a gift of our 18 iwi in the Bay of Plenty to this new venture, I look forward to a fuller translation in time. But two things that stick out to me is the connection with Toi Te Huatahi, a key ancestor of those of us from the Tākitimu and Mataatua canoes, and Ohomairangi, a key ancestor of the Te Arawa canoe. Toi Oho Mai affirms the connection between these three canoes. You might even say it gives a sense of place. A beautiful, simple name with deep meaning and whakapapa. Well done to our iwi for this precious gift.
Kelvin, if you are seriously this ignorant of who we are, of our language, of our history and of our place, then you have no place seeking to lead our city in the 21st century. We deserve a leader who will pick up the phone to his own Tauranga Moana Māori Collective (you know, Kelvin, that Māori advisory group that meets every month with the Council) and ask what the significance is of gifting this name to a new institution. Or do you only pick up the phone if it’s a reporter?