Some of Hawke's Bay's most prominent place names could face challenges in the next few years and decades as steps are taken to better recognise pre-European history of the region.

The likelihood is signalled in the launch of the Hastings District Council's Heretaunga Ararau Te Reo Māori Action Plan, which mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says "will help us to celebrate te reo Māori, along with the wider community".

"This plan has an ambitious goal for Hastings to be a te reo Māori city by 2040 and its implementation will be guided by a Memorandum of Understanding with Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated," she said in a prepared statement.

Almost simultaneously the Māori Party released a general election policy statement proposing "Pākehā place names" be replaced with their original "ingoa Māori" by 2026.

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While the council doesn't yet foresee a move to sideline the name "Hastings", Hazlehurst said progressive initiatives such as creating dual welcome signs for the city gateways would be made in the first five years of the project and the council would be "exploring adopting more te reo Māori place and space names around the district".

It would be done along with installing pou whenua to recognise places of mana whenua settlement/significance, encouraging and supporting more community-based te reo Māori events, and incorporating cultural narratives and design that tell Māori stories into district development.

"The goal is to incorporate te reo Māori in more documents and forms, as well as the design and build of council projects, including planning for growth and the District Plan," she said.

"Other aims are to introduce bilingual signage at council facilities, and to recognise and celebrate te reo Māori champions of all ages in the community."

Māori leader and long-time Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said the iwi had been pushing for more appropriate names for many years, especially as some represented people who had never been to Hawke's Bay, or who had led oppression of people abroad.

The iwi took a lead last year after buying out Hawke's Bay Seafoods and calling it Takitimu Seafoods – Takitimu being the preferred Māori name for the region of Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa.

The iwi has already advocated appending or using the name Takitimu to define the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, while within the boundaries Napier could become Ahuriri (the district) or Pania (more localised to the city area), and there could be Heretaunga for Hastings, Karanema for Havelock North, Waipureku or Awapuni for Clive, Tamatea for Central Hawke's Bay, and Tamaki nui-a-Rua for Dannevirke.

Some are in official and common usage, along with Paharakeke for Flaxmere, and Petane for Bay View and lesser-known places.

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Some have been officially recognised in Treaty settlements, among the more prominent ahead being the use of Mataruahou for the Napier area widely known as Bluff Hill, but incorporating the less-official Hospital and Middle Hills, all in pre-earthquake times known as Scinde Island.

Tomoana said in more recent years there had been a better understanding of why people wanted Māori names restored, and Māori might not achieve full potential without the delving into the deep culture that is now taking place.

He said there is also an appreciation that it "adds value" rather than detracts.

In June last year the New Zealand Geographic Board, Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa, did a catch-up by announcing 824 Māori place names were being made "official", including 48 in Hawke's Bay.

The names had generally already been in common use, including such established names as Porangahau, Te Awanga, Tikokino and Haumoana.

Also made official was one of Takitimu Hawke's Bay's claims to international prominence - Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, a southern Hawke's Bay hill with the longest place name in the world.

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The Māori Party policy, also seeking for New Zealand to be officially named Aotearoa, was announced by Waiariki electorate candidate Rawiri Waititi, who says the place names plan is a bold move but it's necessary to elevate te reo Māori to its rightful place.

"It is unacceptable that only 20 per cent of our people can speak their own language and that only 3 per cent of the country can speak its official language," he said. "We need to be more at a systemic level to protect and promote the reo of Aotearoa."