Oceania | Monocle

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Students get an easy ride


Australia’s Gold Coast Rapid Transit light-rail system is due to be completed within the next two years, linking Griffith University with Broadbeach. As well as increasing access to the campus’s medical centre it will also ease the commute for the university’s 16,500 students.

What’s in a name


The state of South Australia got its name in 1834. Before that it had two other appellations: Pieter Nuyts Land, named after the Dutch explorer who mapped the state’s coast in the 1620s, and Terra Napoleon, a suggestion from the French cartographer Nicolas Baudin. Now, almost 180 years since its most recent rechristening, entrepreneurs in South Australia are lobbying the government to rebrand the state with a new name. It’s hoped this will lift the region’s international profile and overcome confusions. “The main fact is the words South Australia cause a problem,” Peter Vaughan, the chief executive of Business SA, the state’s top business group, told the Adelaide Advertiser. “To everybody from overseas it means the whole of the south of Australia and the initials SA mean South Africa to most other people in the world,” he says. Suggestions for replacement names include Adelaide, after the state’s capital city, or Bradman, a homage to the famous South Australian cricketer.

Simon Anholt, an independent policy adviser who’s helped Latvia and Chile develop regional identity, is sceptical. “Apart from anything else, who cares?” he says. “You’d struggle to name a single sub-national region apart from California and Tuscany. These people should be spending their tax-payers’ money on something more useful.”

Three successful geographical name changes:

  1. East Detroit to Eastpointe, Michigan: After a referendum in 1992, the city changed its name to distance itself from associations with the Motor City and its major drugs epidemic.

  2. Staines to Staines on Thames: The town of Staines in Surrey recently changed its name reportedly because Sasha Baron Cohen’s Ali G character claimed to have been born there.

  3. Van Diemens Land to Tasmania: The Australian territory was renamed in 1856 partly to move away from its homophonic connection with “demons”.

Stormy times


The New South Wales city of Orange, which has long struggled to find a reliable source of drinking water, is set to become the first place in Australia to harvest storm water for consumption. But the AU$47m (€37m) plan to pipe 1.7 mega litres a year from the Maquarie River hasn’t pleased everyone. Environmentalists are concerned the pumping could affect the habitats of local species living in and around the river. Among those most at risk are water rats, platypuses and water dragons.

Coconut power

Tokelau — ENERGY

For the remote islands of Tokelau, climate change isn’t just in textbooks. Rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather conditions – last year there was prolonged drought – threaten to destroy its 1,500 inhabitants’ way of life. That’s why Tokelauans have recently announced a new plan to get all its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 using a grid powered by solar panels and coconut oil.

Along with 600 sq m of solar cells, researchers from New Zealand suggest they’ll need at least 600 coconuts a day to keep the island powered, not too much of a stretch considering most of the islets are covered with coconut palms.

Great and small

New Zealand — HOUSING

Auckland is surprisingly big for a population of 1.5 million. From north to south it stretches 74km, with just 10 homes per hectare. But the Kiwi dream of owning a quarter-acre house may soon be a thing of the past. The city’s council has announced new aims to facilitate 280,000 high-density homes by 2041. If successful, the move will more than triple the density. Mayor Len Brown says, “What Auckland doesn’t want is kilometres of characterless tract housing. The urban sprawl that’s swamped some American cities and the council flats that towered over some English cities in the 1960s are great examples of poor urban planning that we don’t want to repeat.”

Border control


The Australian immigration office runs a tight ship; maybe too tight. Vanuatu’s prime minister, Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, recently deported 12 Australian federal police officers stationed in his country after he was forced to complete immigration and customs clearances at Sydney airport.

Kilman’s private secretary was also detained in the incident for an alleged connection with a tax scam. Australia’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, is threatening to cut aid to the Pacific nation if it doesn’t reconsider the expulsions. Australia was also criticised for heavy border security in 2005 when Papua New Guinea’s PM had to remove his belt and shoes at Brisbane airport.

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