By Calvin Palmer
When your boyfriend is called Andrew Ryan, it makes sense to announce the fact to the world with a personalized license plate containing his initial and surname.
But for others ARYAN1 has a different connotation and the New Zealand Transport Agency received a complaint from an offended motorist.
The complainant wrote: “This is really offensive, for pretty obvious reasons. How can somebody even have a plate like this approved? I am baffled.”
Lisa Marie Thompson, 32, of Upper Hutt, a town about 20 miles northeast of Wellington, paid NZ$700 ($488, £318) four years ago for the ARYAN1 personalized plate for her 1993 Ford Falcon. She and Andre Ryan are no longer together.
When confronted by officials as to why she chose this plate, with its white supremacy and Nazi master race associations, she replied: “Why did I do it? Because it is the name of my ex-boyfriend.”
Thompson said she has no intention of trading it in now she is aware of the significance of the word Aryan.
“I’ll look it up in the dictionary and see what it says, but I’ve had it for years and I don’t see the problem with it,” she said. “It would be no different to having `Maori Pride’. It doesn’t really bother me.”
Thompson said she was not racist and no one had complained about the plate before.
NZTA said white supremacy theories and beliefs – associated with the word “Aryan” – were considered offensive by many, but the Bill of Rights Act guaranteed people’s right to express themselves.
“On its own it is simply a name and I believe it would require some other words, actions or gestures to be inciting,” said a spokesman.
“NZTA finds racism and racist speech as abhorrent as all right-thinking New Zealanders do, which is why this was not an easy decision to make. However, we consider that the original decision not to require the surrender of the plate was correct.”
I take it the NZTA did track down Andrew Ryan and confirm his former relationship with Thompson? It just seems strange that she counters with Maori Pride but did not know what Aryan meant.
But all that matters is that the authorities believe Thompson chose the plate in all innocence and complete ignorance.
The NZTA has the power to pull personalized plates from cars if they are deemed offensive, as the hapless and dyslexic Tom Pan found out when he was asked to remove his personalized plate TAMPON.
Other plates to suffer a similar fate include DRGDLR, HOBNGR, MADFKR and OLDKNT.
[Based on a report by stuff.co.nz.]