Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: If it's not broke, leave it alone

A pair of National Party bigwigs - an MP and a knight - are dead keen on renaming State Highway 1. Photo / Cherie Taylor
A pair of National Party bigwigs - an MP and a knight - are dead keen on renaming State Highway 1. Photo / Cherie Taylor

In the long term, the effects of Britain's vote to leave the European Union are unlikely to add greatly to the total sum of human misery, that being so high already.

But there are, as the Wellingtonians like to say, "learnings" to be had from the result.

One is that if your political talent consists of a bacon-bothering Prime Minister, a leader of the Opposition whose political skills make Colin Craig look like Machiavelli, someone who formed a political party with just one policy, and an ex-mayor of London best known for riding a bicycle and waving at strangers - well, it doesn't look promising, does it?

Another learning is that democracy works.

Votes count and make a difference.

The number of voters who apparently didn't know what they were doing in the referendum was unusually high even by British standards and highlights the importance of being informed.

Idiocy and opportunism, like power, love a vacuum, especially if that vacuum is in the skulls of the electorate.

We have had a flag referendum to remind us of that, but that hasn't stopped some people from proposing to fix something that is clearly not broken.

A pair of National Party bigwigs - an MP and a knight - are dead keen on renaming State Highway 1.

What's the problem?

Apparently the name is boring and "does nothing to attract tourists", according to one report.

They must have access to a different version of TripAdvisor from the one I use because I can't find one where the feedback says: "The scenery was quite nice but the highway names were dreadfully dull. Would not recommend."

However, I'm prepared to believe there are people who research highway names when planning a holiday and choose to visit only countries with exciting ones. Such as "James Cook Highway" which is what MP Paul Foster-Bell (no, I hadn't heard of him either) and party donor Sir Christopher Harris are gunning for.

They think it would be a super way to acknowledge the 250th anniversary of Cook's circumnavigation of New Zealand, which will be on us in three years.

How the Americans must regret the chance they missed by giving their cross-country highway the lugubrious name Route 66.

What a wasted opportunity to name it something evocative and iconic.

Name-change advocates might have a point when they claim Cook deserves to be better known.

I can't find a Trip Advisor feedback that says: "The highway names are dreadfully dull."

The third paragraph of the story reporting this on a major news outlet was: "The British explorer made the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand in 1769, mapping the country and writing about his encounters with Maori."

Oh, that Captain Cook.

But as with any change, the gains have to be weighed up against the losses. There's an austere purity to the name State Highway 1 that conveys a sense of security in these troubled times.

In its few words it gets across a remarkable amount of information: it is obviously the country's most important road, it is a public accessway, clearly well-maintained with all the resources of the state at its disposal and regarded as a national asset.

James Cook Highway, on the other hand, sounds like it might be the shortest route to a hotel on The Terrace.

Besides, despite his apparent anonymity, Cook has left his name all over the country.

On his brief visits he set about bestowing new titles on a bunch of features that had perfectly good names.

He already has a couple of mountains, a lake, a beach, three creeks, two coves, two bluffs, a strait, a saddle, an arm, a channel and a stream named after him.

There was even a TV show called Ready Steady Cook, which I never saw but no doubt involved an element of competitive circumnavigation. The last thing he needs is a highway and the last thing we need is a debate about something so relatively inconsequential.

- Herald on Sunday

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