Apr 21, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Shock discovery leads to public consultation on re-naming the North & South Islands

3 min read

There is to be a public consultation to name New Zealand’s two main islands, after a shock discovery that ‘North Island’ and ‘South Island’ were never official.

The New Zealand Geographic Board is looking to formalise the currently used and recorded English names for the North and South Islands of New Zealand (North Island and South Island), as well as considering official alternative Maori names.

The Board consulted with iwi throughout the country beginning in 2009 and determined that the most appropriate Maori names for the islands are Te Ika-a-Maui The Fish of Maui, for the North Island, and Te Waipounamu, The Waters of Greenstone, for the South Island.

Now the public consultation will begin with all New Zealanders

For several years the Board has been investigating Maori names for New Zealands two main islands and exploring a process for formally recognising alternative Maori names for each island.

Interestingly, while researching this issue, we noted that North Island and South Island are actually not official names under our legislation, despite their common long-term usage, said Board Chairperson Dr Don Grant. We therefore want to formalise alternative Maori names and, at the same time, make the naming of the North and South Islands official.

Alternative naming means that either the English names (North Island and South Island), or the Maori names could be used individually or together. This differs from dual naming where both names are used together in official documents, such as maps.

Assigning alternative names will allow the Board to recognise the historical and cultural importance of traditional Maori names for both islands, while still retaining the long-term and commonly used English names, which are important to New Zealanders, said Dr Grant.

The Maori names Te Ika a Maui for the North Island and Te Wai Pounamu for the South Island appear on early official maps and documents. The Boards research has also shown that Maori names for the islands appear on the very earliest maps and charts, including those of Captain Cook. Cooks chart did not include English names for these islands.

This is part of our countrys history of European exploration and the settlement of New Zealand. It was only from the 1950s that Maori names of the two main islands stopped appearing on official maps, says Dr Grant.

The Boards consideration of alternative names arises from a member of the publics proposal to rename the South Island Te Wai Pounamu. The Boards view was that replacing the name South Island was not appropriate, but that alternative Maori names should be collected and considered for both the North Island and South Island, as a related pair of names.

This is a matter of great historical and cultural significance for New Zealand, so we want to consult with the wider New Zealand public, said Dr Grant. Before we do that, we want to make sure weve collected known traditional Maori names to inform what we then consult on.

The Board assigns, approves, alters or discontinues the use of names for geographic features (eg place names), undersea features and Crown protected areas in New Zealand, its offshore islands and its continental shelf and the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. The Board is a statutory body of government operating under the New Zealand Geographic Board (Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 and reporting to the Minister for Land Information.

NZGBs decision in principle was initially made in 2007, but 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, visithttp://www.linz.govt.nz/placenames


7 thoughts on “Shock discovery leads to public consultation on re-naming the North & South Islands

  1. Captain Cook’s own records show what the land was named. They don’t need to be renamed. They already have names. North and south island are just what they were referred to as…the north one and the south one – followed by their existing names. Mind you…it’s the same for Aotearoa isn’t it? The whole country already had a name until someone came along and changed that too. Has this happened to other countries? Did someone arrive in France one day and say no we’ll call this place New Italy instead. Why is it that Maori just have to roll over and put up with these ongoing offences against their identity and continue te be oppressed? Shocker! If they haven’t officially been named then officially name them their ORIGINAL, EXISTING names!

  2. Hay thats cool.My fear is that the MP’s will want to debate this for quite a period of time. Does it really need to be debated till the cows come home at cost to the taxpayers while other issues in society get shoved under the carpet. Make a decission and put it into place. This need not drag out. They make a pay rise bill pass pretty quick though. God help us….

  3. In regards to this we find that this is a clear breach of the Declaration of Independence 1835 in agreement of King william the IV and the hereditary chiefs O Nu Tireni, which holds presedence above the Treaty of Waitangi 1840, that also documents issued by the crown in the wars also under the Name Nu Tireni by the crown, as the Taiaopuru Waka Taua I/We strongly object and will be taking this up with the Crown Directly.over this so called name change proposal and may we remind you that the name is bound under Law.I/we strongly ask that whomever in this be very carefull in what they are doing and tread with caution, TATWT/NC Taiaopuru, Whatutiri 2013. 02/04/2013

    1. Tread carefully !!! Their are selling our country by the pound. But I agree with your comments.

  4. just another thing to add to our iwi grievances…. Maui found Te Ikaroa a Maui…. Te Waipounamu – greenstone… or Te Waka o maui…. these are only two of many indigeneous place names that have been removed, changed, edited. Much like our treaty… now there are 3 Ps??? I didnt hear about consultation in similfying the treaty to allowed pakeha to changed and bend rules….. Equality – Equal rights… heck we dont even insist on teaching the language of this beautiful country to all who live here…. Unlike Pakeha, Tauiwi – We (Maori) dont have another land to go too…. European (NZ Europeans, pakeha) your from Europe – England, Ireland, Scotland…. My people bleed for this country…. “For God – For King??? which one and for country…..” Each iwi had their own rangatira…. we didnt need a King – only the government wanted one – one voice to speak on behalf of all iwi… I dont think so! Give us more credit! E TU WHANAU!

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