May 14, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Whanganui to find out name change decision TODAY

3 min read

Update: Well it’s official… both Whanganui AND Wanganui will be “allowed” although governement departments will have to use the correct Whanganui spelling. Click here to read a NZ Herald article on the decision.


(Colin Espiner/NZPA) The Government will today reveal its decision on the controversial “h” for Wanganui, with a compromise seen as the most likely option. The Geographic Board has recommended that the “h” be included in the town’s name, sparking outrage from Mayor Michael Laws, who has run a public campaign to keep the spelling as is.

The decision rests with Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson, who will reveal it at a press conference in Wanganui this morning.

Mr Williamson has three options:

  • confirm the board’s recommendation
  • reject it
  • offer a compromise

The compromise could see the town’s name spelt either way, as is the case with Mt Taranaki/Egmont or Aoraki/Mt Cook. Mr Williamson has indicated a compromise could be on the cards, including time for Wanganui to adjust to a name change.

The Maori Party has pushed hard for a name change, and co-leader Tariana Turia said yesterday that the party would be “disappointed” if the current spelling remained. She said she would be satisfied with a compromise that involved both spellings. “We’ve got people on both sides of the debate feeling very passionate about what they believe is the right way,” she said. “I’m never going to change my mind about what is the right way to spell it, but I believe we have to find a way forward.”

She had not been told by Mr Williamson what his decision was. “He’s definitely kept it very close to his chest.” Regardless of the decision, she believed the spelling would change over time as the community got used to adding the “h” to the town’s name.

“We already have a lot of non-Maori in the community who do use the ‘h’. It’s on the river, it’s in the DHB, it’s in the polytech and there are other tourism organisations who do use the ‘h’. I think it’s just a stage process, and people, by osmosis, will change,” she told Radio New Zealand.

Ken Mair, spokesman for the iwi fighting to include the “h”, Runanga o Tupoho, said he had not been told of Mr Williamson’s decision. “I’m philosophical about it. You just hope it’s the right decision.”

Mr Laws has previously called the Geographic Board recommendation “racist” and “undemocratic” and said residents were “angry, upset and disappointed” by the prospect of a name change. “Obviously it is the desire of Wanganui people that their democratic decision – made by referenda in both 2006 and 2009 – is upheld.”

Mr Laws said the council left no stone unturned in its efforts to retain the name.

“We believe the NZ Geographic Board to be wrong in both fact and logic.”

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said Mr Williamson had statutory responsibility for the decision, and Mr Key had not been involved.

1 thought on “Whanganui to find out name change decision TODAY

  1. Maori, Laws happy with compromise

    The decision to allow the spelling of Wanganui with or without the "h" has been welcomed by both sides in what has, at times, been an acrimonious debate.

    Mayor Michael Laws hailed the move by Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson to overturn the Geographic Board's decision to go with the "h" as an "early Christmas present for the city and district".

    Ken Mair, a Maori activist and one of the driving forces in seeking a change in the spelling of the city's name, said after conveying the decision to local Maori at a city marae: "We recognise it was a difficult and courageous decision to make, but the correct one.At least three of the city's oldest institutions are not planning any changes.

    Chur to NZPA
    To read ful; article:

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