Geographic board to judge if Wanganui will get an 'h'

By Isaac Davison

The future of Wanganui's name will be decided when the New Zealand Geographic Board meets on Friday.

The board's decision comes after an often heated dispute which in the last two months has included a vandalism attack on Mayor Michael Laws' house and a stealthy name change of the council buildings to "Whanganui".

Mr Laws said the argument should have been resolved in 2006 when a referendum was held.

"The overwhelming results - 82 per cent - voted for Wanganui's name to remain as it has been for 170 years."

New Zealand Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw said the board would take note of the referendum.

"While the board gives considerable weight to those [majority] views, it must also weigh those up against its statutory functions regarding spelling and original Maori place names.

"Past decisions of the board have generally applied more weight to community views when considering the names of populated places."

Te Runanga o Tupoho head Ken Mair said his iwi was "quietly confident" that the name would be changed to Whanganui, the name given to the town's river and health board.

The iwi petitioned the board to change the name on the grounds that Wanganui was a meaningless word.

Mr Laws said the name Wanganui had a history of its own and changing it would be an injustice to its residents.

"The culture of my people, the mana of my people, their heritage, would be absolutely trampled over ... were any other decision apart from the status quo contemplated."

The board will announce its decision on Monday morning.

- NZ Herald

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