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Maori titles for NZ islands, Oz firm destroys Aboriginal sacred site

It’s taken 200 years, but New Zealand is finally planning to officially name its main islands. Despite the North and South appearing on maps since European settlement began in the early 1800s, the monikers had never been formally recognised. So the New Zealand Geographic Board is looking to put that right, holding consultations to find out public response.

Overwhelmingly, the people wanted to have the choice to use English and Maori names. So, significantly, the South will also be known as Te Wai Pounamu (rivers of green stone) and the North as Te Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maori god Maui). It’s better late than never.

But, compare this to the news last week that an Australian mining company had desecrated an Aboriginal sacred site in the Northern Territory, and it’s a stark reminder of how differently two countries regard their indigenous communities. 

OM Holdings was found guilty and fined for damage to Two Women Sitting Down at Bootu Creek, about 170km north of Tennant Creek. The rock, which had been there for thousands of years, split in half after the firm blasted and mined 40 metres away in 2011.

Magistrate Sue Oliver summed it up in calling it a genuine loss of heritage for the country, blaming the company’s shameful decisions that favoured “business and profit” over its obligations to protect the area. The firm had consulted with traditional owners, but abused their trust, not revealing the true extent of the potential impacts of the operation. For the community, the effect has been huge – locals getting sick and dying.

“It’s like losing your mother,” representative Gina Smith said. As the first conviction of its kind in Oz, it’s a landmark case with huge significance. But as OM deals with hundreds of millions of dollars, the AU$150k fine ($400k was the max) is an insult to Aboriginals.

And it shows that despite being just thousands of miles from each other, when it comes to relationships with their indigenous populations, Australia and New Zealand are worlds apart.

 

Cyclists a danger to pedestrians

London’s biggest cycling event was expected to take place last weekend, with roads closing to accommodate 70,000 amateur and professional riders. 

In anticipation of what I’m sure will be a nightmare, I’ll be avoiding venturing out on the capital’s roads. I appreciate cyclists dice with death on a regular basis, but there are some who put others’ safety at risk by being a law unto themselves. 

Crossing a road near work last week, a group of us were nearly taken out by a biker who’d run a red light, and was screaming at us to get out of the way – as though we were in the wrong. And it’s not the first time something like that has happened. The other morning I saw a cyclist bizarrely carrying a suitcase – he could just about see over the top.

Those on two wheels need to remember they’re not the only at-risk road users. Yes, let’s give cyclists their own lanes – not least because it’ll hopefully make life safer for those of us using our feet as well.

» Agree or disagree? Tell us what you think: letters@tntmagazine.com

Photos: Getty


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Opinion: What's in a name? A nod of respect to indigenous people - and cyclists a danger to pedestrians
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