Ev­ery­one’s a win­ner

Matamata Chronicle - - News/opinion - By DENISE IRVINE

Iwas head­ing home from Mt Maun­ganui on Easter Mon­day, cross­ing the great di­vide that sep­a­rates Bay of Plenty and Waikato, join­ing the in­evitable queue that snakes over the Kaimai Range on high days and hol­i­days.

The traf­fic slowed to walk­ing pace at the sum­mit. Sure enough, in the dis­tance, there was a be­he­moth of a truck lum­ber­ing down the western flank. Ev­ery­one got in be­hind, pick­ing it off one by one on the pass­ing bays. No toot­ing, no ag­gres­sive driv­ing, no point re­ally be­cause op­tions are limited on this moun­tain cross­ing. Not much room to ma­noeu­vre.

Nowa­days, there are prom­i­nent road signs to cheer you on your way: Have a Safe Trip Over the Kaimai Range, said the freshly painted ones I spotted on Mon­day.

They sig­nal both a mes­sage, and a vic­tory for Mata­mata kau­matua Will Mur­ray, his story re­ported in the Chron­i­cle ear­lier this month.

The signs ini­tially said Have a Safe Trip Over the Kaimais. Mur­ray, a flu­ent te reo Maori speaker, took ex­cep­tion to the in­cor­rect gram­mar.

Al­though the moun­tain range is usu­ally re­ferred to col­lo­qui­ally as the Kaimais, there is no "s" in the Maori lan­guage, and Mur­ray was dis­mayed that it had been used on an of­fi­cial sign which vis­i­tors from around the coun­try, and the world, would see.

The Western Bay of Plenty Road Safety Com­mit­tee, which in­stalled the signs as part of a road safety cam­paign on State High­way 29, moved quickly to rec­tify them (ditch­ing the plu­ral by chang­ing Kaimais to Kaimai Range), and said it meant no of­fence by its mis­take. Mur­ray gra­ciously com­mended the apol­ogy.

It’s a small thing, a big thing. It’s easy to let er­rors and an­noy­ances like this slide by. It takes en­ergy and ef­fort to tackle them, and some­times there’s a back­lash.

Not in this case. Bad gram­mar is un­ac­cept­able in any­one’s lan­guage, and I ad­mire Will Mur­ray for re­mind­ing us of the cor­rect us­age of Kaimai. I like his un­com­pro­mis­ing at­ti­tude.

I like the rugged Kaimai Range, too. It’s hard to tame, its un­com­pro­mis­ing ter­rain means that al­though en­gi­neers and other ex­perts have done their best to de­velop a de­cent road across, you still have to treat it with re­spect and cau­tion. You do some­thing silly, and the moun­tains will have the last say - as they have done on many oc­ca­sions.

I’ve been driv­ing the road since I was a teenager, I’ve ob­served it in all its changes and en­coun­tered many of its chal­lenges.

I’ve nearly been blown off the top in high winds, I’ve been blan­keted by fog on win­ter morn­ings, I’ve danced dan­ger­ously with laden trucks, been stuck be­hind cum­ber­some camper­vans, nav­i­gated end­less road­works, and been over­taken on tight cor­ners by hooning kids with surf­boards strapped to their roof racks.

The day af­ter my wed­ding my hus­band thought­fully pulled into the look­out car park at the top so I could throw up into the bushes. Oh, the shame of it. No, I wasn’t preg­nant, I still blame the oys­ters served at the re­cep­tion, and maybe one glass of bub­bly too many.

Later, we were quite of­ten in that car park, wait­ing for the en­gine of our un­re­li­able yel­low Vaux­hall Viva to cool down af­ter over­heat­ing (or some­thing) on the way up the steep hill. We’d nip across to the shop (long gone) for an ice cream, and to col­lect wa­ter for the en­gine from the pop­u­lar road­side spring. When we fi­nally got a bet­ter car we’d cheer loudly as we reached the sum­mit with­out in­ci­dent.

Two years ago, I pulled over into the same car park to take an anx­iously awaited call from our younger son, an­nounc­ing the birth of his baby daugh­ter.

The view from the look­out is spec­tac­u­lar, the Waikato heart­land laid out be­low like a magic green car­pet (droughts notwith­stand­ing). Then, on the east­ern de­scent, there are tan­ta­lis­ing glimpses of the ocean, and al­ways a whiff of the hol­i­days that lie ahead.

Last weekend, new things to ob­serve - the gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect Kaimai signs.

Thanks Will Mur­ray, and the Western Bay of Plenty Road Safety Com­mit­tee, it’s a good re­sult. Ev­ery­one’s a win­ner.

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