The Napier City and Hastings District Councils will be asked to formally support a controversial proposal to rename the region's airport Ahuriri Airport Hawke's Bay.

The name change has been requested by Treaty of Waitangi claimant group Mana Ahuriri Incorporated and has been supported by Hawke's Bay Airport's board of directors.

But the airport company's chairman, Tony Porter, said yesterday the board believed the renaming was an issue that needed to be decided by the company's three shareholders - the Napier and Hastings councils, which hold 26 and 24 per cent stakes in the company respectively, and the Crown, which owns the other 50 per cent.

When the Hawke's Bay Airport directors next meet, on April 28, Mr Porter said he would table a motion that the board ask the shareholders to formally signal their support for the name change.

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After discussing the proposal with the airport board last year, Mana Ahuriri met informally with the two councils to put the case for the change, based on historic hapu ties with the airport site and the inner harbour.

After those meetings the councils indicated they had "no objections to the name change at some future time and requested the matter be further investigated" by the airport company, Mr Porter said.

The company had since concluded the name change would not be expensive, because it could be carried out in tandem with a planned upgrade of the terminal.

The request for formal shareholder support means the naming issue is likely to be the subject of discussion in the two councils' debating chambers during the next month or two.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said yesterday that after his council's meeting with Mana Ahuriri, his council had unanimously supported the group's bid to have the name change considered by the airport company.

However, he said it would be up to the full council to make a decision once it was approached by the airport company.