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Alternative Naming For North & South Islands

Alternative Naming For North & South Islands

The New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa last Thursday agreed to proceed to publicly consult on proposals to formally assign official alternative names to New Zealand’s two main islands – meaning that either the English name or the Māori name, or both names together could be used as official.

NZGB Chair Dr Don Grant says the move follows the receipt of a proposal to change the name ‘South Island’ to its original Māori name ‘Te Waipounamu’ and to consider the original Māori name of the North Island at the same time.

“At that time we noted that the existing English names were recorded names, rather than official names. They appeared on LINZ’s maps, charts and other official publications but had never been formalised under the NZGB Act.

“The NZGB agreed in principle that the English names should be formalised, that – as a related pair – both islands should also be assigned Māori alternative names, and that all of the names should be formalised at the same time.”

Following consultation with iwi, the NZGB determined that the most appropriate Māori names for the islands are ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’ (for the North Island) and ‘Te Waipounamu’ (for the South Island).

“The NZGB Act was amended in December 2012, and now provides for alternative naming. As such, the NZGB agreed at its latest meeting on 28 March 2013 to begin the process to formalise these names.

“This means that the two main islands of New Zealand could soon be referred to officially as the ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’ and the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’.”


Background Information

The New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa is consulting the public about whether or not to formally assign official alternative names to the two main islands of New Zealand – meaning that both the current English names and the Māori names would be able to be used together or individually.

This move follows the receipt of a proposal to change the name ‘South Island’ to its original Māori name, as well as the discovery that the existing English names for the islands have never been formalised. As such, they are recorded names rather than official names.

As recorded names, ‘North Island’ and ‘South Island’ appear on LINZ maps and charts, and other official publications. However, the NZGB Act 2008 does not require recorded names to be used. The Māori names appeared on early official government maps of New Zealand, however, it is unclear as to why this practice ceased during the 1950s.

While there are a number of Māori names for both islands, the names ‘Te Ika ā Māui (‘the fish of Māui’ – North Island) and Te Waipounamu (‘the waters of greenstone’ – South Island) were deemed most appropriate following consultation with iwi.

Although the NZGB’s decision in principle was initially made in 2007, the matter was deferred as the New Zealand Geographic Board Act 2008 did not provide for alternative naming. As the Act was amended in December 2012, the NZGB is now able to proceed.

For more information about New Zealand place naming, and the role of the NZGB, visit http://www.linz.govt.nz/placenames.

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