Next set of bilingual signs released for public consultation


A package of proposed bilingual traffic signs will be released for consultation today Te Mātāwai Board Co-Chair Reikura Kahi and Waka Kotahi Director of Land Transport Kane Patena announced.

The consultation is part of the He Tohu Huarahi Māori bilingual traffic signs programme led by Te Mātāwai and Waka Kotahi to enable the use of te reo Māori on traffic signs across Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Mātāwai is the independent entity that works on behalf of Iwi and Māori for the revitalisation of te reo Māori. Driving this programme is a vision to see te reo Māori restored as the first language of Aotearoa New Zealand, by ensuring that te reo Māori is seen in everyday environments and heard and spoken more often.

“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. Affirming the status of te reo and enabling community engagement are critical drivers of language revitalisation so we celebrate this moment,” said Reikura Kahi.

“Bilingual signage is an important step towards affirming the indigenous status of te reo Māori in Aotearoa. Increasing awareness and access to te reo Māori in our communities and cities is also a launchpad from which new iwi language initiatives targeting new generations can grow together.”

The proposals cover 94 signs and are grouped by type:

  • Destination signs 
  • Public and active transport signs
  • Walking and cycling wayfinding signs
  • General advisory and permanent warning signs
  • Motorway and expressway advisory signs
  • Temporary warning signs.

We are also proposing several changes to the Traffic Control Devices Rule which are considered minor. 

A panel of te reo Māori experts, Te Pae Whakamāori, was established to consider and propose translations for the package of signs.

Professor Tom Roa from Te Pae Whakamāori says seeing and hearing te reo Māori has become a norm in Aotearoa New Zealand and these translations address that visibility in the signs on our roads.

“Te Pae Whakamāori have upheld the mana of the language with an attention to a consistency of terminology across the country, but more, the safety of the community in reading, understanding, and following the signage was a priority.”

The translations also went through a moderation process, supported by Te Mātāwai.

“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.

‘We also looked at bilingual signage in other countries and found that good design mitigates safety risks.”

Nicholas Manukau, Tumuaki National Manager Māori Waka Kotahi acknowledges the language as a living taonga for all New Zealanders regardless of one's background, ‘it is a part of who we are, and what it is to be a kiwi.'

He Tohu Huarahi Māori programme is supported by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori the Māori Language Commission and Te Manatū Waka the Ministry of Transport. The partnership with Te Mātāwai led to the creation of a He Tohu Huarahi Māori Partnership Rōpū which made the final decisions on which signs would be part of the package for public consultation.

This consultation follows the successful rule change last year to enable bilingual Kura School traffic signs.

The rollout of this package will begin with signs that need to be replaced, particularly in hard-hit regions where signs were damaged during the cyclone and new signs are needed.

This also reflects our low-cost implementation approach for bilingual signs, which will be introduced as existing signs are replaced or new signs are needed on the network. This is the same approach adopted for the suite of Kura School signs.

Waka Kotahi has undertaken research to identify international precedents and to examine the safety implications of bilingual signage. Many countries use bilingual signage, and research demonstrates that bilingual signs have not led to an increase in the number of people who have been killed or seriously injured where this has been measured (for example in Scotland and Wales). 

Research note and more information about the He Tohu Huarahi Māori bilingual traffic signs programme

Consultation on the proposed package of bilingual traffic signs closes at 5pm, Friday 30 June 2023.

Supporting information

He Tohu Huarahi Māori Bilingual Traffic Signs programme is supported by a multi-disciplinary team from both organisations and an expert panel of te Reo Māori translators from across the motu. Te Mātāwai was established in 2016 by Te Ture mō te Reo Māori (Māori Language Act) and works on behalf of iwi and Māori in partnership with the Crown for the purposes of Māori language revitalisation. 

He Tohu Huarahi Māori Bilingual Traffic Signs programme work will progress in two phases:

  • Phase 1: identify, consider, and enable a prioritised selection of bilingual signs by the end of 2023.
  • Phase 2: undertake a process to consider and, where appropriate, implement the rest of the signs from 2024. This is subject to funding.

More information about the He Tohu Huarahi Māori bilingual traffic signs programme

Read more about the consultation

Kua tukuna ngā tohu reorua hou ki te ara tuku kōrero (te reo Māori version)