New Zealand could soon see the implementation of bilingual road signs in both English and Māori languages as Waka Kotahi has today released new examples for public consultation.
The transport agency is seeking feedback on 94 different signs which include destination signs, public and active transport signs, motorway and expressway signs, and more.
The main driver behind the programme, called He Tohu Huarahi Māori, is ”to see te reo Māori restored as the first language of Aotearoa New Zealand”, states Waka Kotahi, as it wants to ensure that Māori is heard, spoken, and seen in every day environments.
“Using te reo Māori on traffic signs will contribute to an Aotearoa New Zealand where: te reo Māori is visible at a community level where our whānau live and play, and the mana of te reo is affirmed and recognised,” says Reikura Kahi.
“Bilingual signage is an important step towards affirming the indigenous status of te reo Māori in Aotearoa.”
This consultation follows the successful rule change last year to allow bilingual “Kura School” road signs to be installed.
Waka Kotahi says the rollout of the package will see signs that need replacing feature both languages, specifically in areas that were affected by Cyclone Gabrielle that had theirs damaged or destroyed.
However, one of the major concerns when it comes to implementing bilingual road signs is safety.
According to research by Waka Kotahi, there hasn’t been an instance where someone was killed or seriously injured due to misunderstanding signs with two languages on them. That’s at least in places where it was measured like Scotland and Wales.
“We have sought and incorporated the views of specialists in te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, te ao Māori, Local Government, safety and roading,” said Kane Patena, Director of Land Transport at Waka Kotahi.
”We also looked at bilingual signage in other countries and found that good design mitigates safety risks.”
The transport agency says it’s proposing several changes to the Traffic Control Devices Rule as well.
Consultation on the proposed package of bilingual traffic signs closes at 5pm, Friday 30 June 2023.