David Kennedy: New Hollanders all let us rejoice

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OPINION: School was a long time ago for me, and I only recall snippets of what I thought was an adequate education.

I remember being mildly interested in a range of historical stories, from Roman legions conquering the world to Giuseppe Garibaldi’s rebellion in Italy and Otto von Bismarck’s unification of Germany.

It was only later in life I realised no one had bothered to teach me this country’s history.

I’ve recently been reading a novel by Queenstown’s Craig McLachlan that underlined just how little I know about the European history of the country.

Craig’s book Kiwi Republic is about a bunch of Queenstown revolutionaries that change the country (and its name) through some comedic terrorism.

The book starts in a boozy Queenstown flat with a debate about who named the country “New Zealand”.

I learned Abel Tasman didn’t name NZ, and couldn’t have. In 1642 one already existed – in Western New Guinea.

Tasman actually named our fair isles Staten Landt, thinking he’d discovered the Great Southern Continent.

When this was debunked a few years later, it was probably Dutch cartographers who transferred the name to make a matching trans-Tasman pair.

It was possibly a salute to the two great maritime provinces in the Netherlands, Holland and Zeeland, as until 1824 Australia was in fact named New Holland.

Which until now I had thought was a model of tractor.

It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if Straya was still called New Holland.

Kiwis would have a field day with New Holland jokes.

“Why do so many New Hollanders wear clogs? You need an IQ of at least 10 to tie shoelaces.”

See, easy pickings.

What about the Rugby World Cup final?

NZ would play New Holland but only if they beat Amsterdam Island (Abel Tasman’s name for Tonga) in the semis.

The Lucky Country’s anthem wouldn’t cut it as “Advance New Holland Fair”.

The New Holland Rugby League team sounds like a tulip arrangement.

Knowing where you came from is the first step in knowing where you are going, and I wonder whether we got the cart before the horse with the flag referendum.

Are we proud to be named as a second thought by unknown 17th century colonialist map-makers?

Maybe we should sort out our country’s moniker before we design the banner that flutters atop it.

I’ve grown comfortable being a New Zealander.

But I think it’s only because the “Z” makes me sound slightly foreign and mysterious – like Zorro.

And the “New” suggests that I’ve recently bathed.

Being an Aotearoan would be way more exotic and New World.

Of course a country-naming competition could be a disaster as well.

Imagine the marketers of fast-moving consumer goods jumping into the fray: “New Improved Zealand, now with wadeable water!”

David Kennedy is Ngai Tahu Tourism’s southern regional boss