12 Dec 2022
A national BMX champion, an associate charge nurse who helps run a Tokoroa gym, a pig hunting Elvis-loving five-year-old and a retired teacher-turned-farmer now film actor are some of the 24 local personalities who feature on South Waikato District’s new town signage.
Tyrell Taylor, Sami Kaitai, McGregor Manu and Dave Shaw were nominated by friends or whānau to be the faces on the signs that greet visitors at the road entrances of South Waikato’s four main towns, Tokoroa, Putāruru, Tīrau and Arapuni.
South Waikato District Council Head of Economic Development Paul Bowden says the signage refresh is part of a strategy to put the district and its four main towns on the map and highlight how friendly and welcoming our community is to visitors, businesses, and potential new residents.
“Our signage was not consistent across the district,” said Mr Bowden. “Our new signage will unify the South Waikato district while projecting each town’s unique identity. It is all about people and community – that’s why we asked the people of South Waikato to nominate personalities to represent the district.”
Mr Bowden said the overarching catchphrases “We love South Waikato” and “We love it here” and design concepts developed by brand expert Sven Baker were based on extensive research into what makes the district and its towns special.
“Previous research showed many people outside the district could not place South Waikato on a map and some have negative perceptions of our towns – but the locals love living here, and we needed that to shine through.”
South Waikato District Council Digital Marketing Co-ordinator Michaela Coffin says “Our towns are very diverse, and we were looking for a single unifying idea that truly reflected the district and the towns. The unifying idea is that people all love their towns and communities even though they are so different. Featuring local people on the signs makes the signs authentic.”
Associate Charge Nurse Manager and fitness enthusiast Sami Kaitai who helps run a gym and the athletics club in Tokoroa is all in favour of featuring local people on the signs. “When you see a person on the signs who is active in the community it gives you someone to relate to.”
Former Putāruru College Deputy Principal Dave Shaw is proud to feature on the signage of his adopted home. He emigrated to New Zealand from Radcliffe near Manchester and settled in Putāruru because he loved the hearty, community-minded people, the beautiful scenery and the opportunity for outdoor activities including tramping, rafting, and hunting. Mr Shaw said his mate Shep the Dog, who appears with him on the sign, agrees.
Mr Bowden said welcoming signs from local iwi, Raukawa, will appear alongside each district entry sign into the South Waikato District.
Raukawa Tumu Whakarae (General Manager) Maria Te Kanawa said, “From an iwi perspective it’s important we warmly welcome everyone into Te Rohe o Raukawa. It’s been our homeland for over 300 years so whether you are a visitor, migrant, immigrant, local or tangata whenua, everyone is welcome, nau piki mai, nau kake mai. It’s a special place and I’m proud to call it my home.”
Mayor Gary Petley said “Almost every district has signs welcoming people to their part of New Zealand but we believe this is the first time prominent welcome signs from the local iwi will be placed on state highways acknowledging you are entering part of their rohe.
“This signage is all about presenting a fresh new image for South Waikato and our towns that is positive, forward-looking and welcoming and is aligned with all the exciting growth happening in the district.
“The new signage will build pride in the district among locals so they can advocate for it, and welcome new investors, residents and visitors,” concluded Mayor Petley.
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