It has been a tough week for Pat Spellman.

His idea to make Tauranga a more te reo-friendly city tapped into a rich vein of simmering resentment that exists in some quarters against the promotion of Maori culture.

The main fear appears to be that city funds will be used to pay for the plan even though Mr Spellman is on record as saying no ratepayer money is being sought.

It takes a brave person to pitch a plan that would see signs in both English and Maori and local business owners encouraged to use the greeting "kia ora" when a strong reaction is inevitable.


The proposal has been hotly debated in the Bay of Plenty Times and online.

Some are adamant they do not want to be greeted in Maori and that a minority group is making drastic demands of the majority.

Others feel te reo Maori is an official language in this country and as such should be promoted at every opportunity.

Such debate is a healthy part of any democracy.

What is not healthy is the verbal abuse Mr Spellman has been subjected to since revealing his plan. One woman, who did not like his response to her view that he should pay for the signs himself, responded by calling him a "b******".

It is disturbing that a person should be subjected to abuse for having the courage to float an idea.

Such comments would not be allowed in a schoolyard but it seems some adults in our community believe they are entitled to attack the person and not the issue.

I have no firm view on whether or not the city should have bilingual signs other than that I believe there are probably more pressing issues that need to be tackled.

It is healthy for ideas like Mr Spellman's to be reasonably debated. To his credit, Mr Spellman is not letting the flack affect him. If anything it has hardened his resolve.