Official Maori names for NZ islands put forward

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The country's two main islands could soon also be officially known as Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu.

The New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa Public is consulting the public about whether to formally assign official alternative Maori names to the North and South Islands.

The process means the English and Maori names could be officially used together or individually.

The move follows a proposal to change the name South Island to its original Maori name Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) and the North Island to Te Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maui), suggested after consultation with iwi.

"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, board chairman Don Grant said.

The Maori names for the islands appeared on early official government maps of New Zealand but it is unclear why the practice stopped in the 1950s.

The NZGB agreed the English names should be formalised -and Maori alternative names should be assigned and be formalised at the same time, Dr Grant said.


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