Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says moves to add an "h" to the city's name will be resisted.
Te Runanga o Tupoho, a local iwi committee headed by Ken Mair and John Maihi, has petitioned the New Zealand Geographic Board to change the spelling of the city to "Whanganui".
Mr Laws said yesterday that the move was a needlessly provocative gesture and contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Wanganui's residents.
"Unlike the application in the early 1990s to rename the river, this council will not stay silent.
"We will uphold the city's name after 150 years of being spelled this way. In addition, the local Maori pronunciation renders the 'h' silent anyway."
He said he would have presumed that local iwi might have concentrated their energy and resources on more important issues affecting Maori.
Mr Mair told the Wanganui Chronicle that leaving the "h" out of Whanganui had been an ongoing frustration for Maori for more than 20 years.
"We applied to the board and got the 'h' added to Whanganui River. The district health board listened to us, and we now have the Whanganui District Health Board. But it's not enough. We need this city to be renamed Whanganui as well."
Mr Mair said there was a mountain of local support.