Saving our roads from misnomers

Roger Partridge
Insights Newsletter
25 October, 2019

A Twitter-storm has raged over the last week about Auckland Council’s rules requiring community consultation before private developers can name new roads. Apparently, some Aucklanders believe that holding up housing projects while developers comply with council road-naming requirements is unacceptable red tape.  

Granted, Auckland faces a housing crisis. But road-naming is a serious matter. You might think property developers have an incentive to choose sensible street names. But a cursory internet search reveals the risks. Some of the weirdest names in America include ‘Bad Route Road’, ‘Duh Drive’ and ‘Pillow Talk Court’. Anything goes in the wild west of unregulated street names.

It is worse still across the Atlantic. Horrific English road names abound. Take Oxford’s ‘Crotch Crescent’, Worcestershire’s ‘Minge Lane’ or Rowley Regis’s ‘Bell End’.

To protect unsuspecting Kiwis from the stress of a poorly named street, Auckland Council’s ‘Road Naming Guidelines’ bring a touch of due process. The guidelines require road names to ‘reflect themes relevant to the local area’, to recognise ‘ancestral linkages to land’, and to ensure names occur in a ‘consistent, transparent and impartial’ manner. (Heaven forbid an impartial street name!)

The guidelines also ensure community buy-in. They require developers to start the naming process by asking for ideas from local community groups and clubs, and by consulting with mana whenua. After consultation, a formal application (proposing a ‘preferred’ name, and at least two back-ups) may be submitted. Given the importance of the outcome to residents, local boards have discretion to reject any names proposed, to seek alternative names, or to make their own enquiries.

Developers cannot apply for a road name until after they have a Resource Consent and are prohibited from breaking ground before their chosen names have been approved.

Thankfully, we can take comfort that Auckland Council has such a comprehensive and inclusive process. It would be undemocratic if developers could choose their own street names. Especially impartial ones. Just imagine if royalists could choose regal names like Queen Street or King Edward Avenue.

In any case, provided each step goes smoothly, the process can be completed within a few months. Of course, if there are delays or hiccups, the naming-process can take upwards of a year.

But surely having families sleeping in cars is a small price to pay if it only saves one road from having a bad name.

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