A Hawke's Bay historian has backed the notion that a town named after an "unstable sociopath" could revert to its original Māori name – but only if residents call for change.
Two British schools recently changed the names of their boarding houses – both of which were named after Lord Robert Clive.
The small Hawke's Bay town of Clive was also named after the former Major General, who is accredited for laying the foundation of the British Empire in India alongside Warren Hastings.
The coastal settlement was known as Waipureku, before it was renamed after the first British Governor of the Bengal Presidency (now part of India and Bangladesh) in the mid-1800s.
Scottish historian William Dalrymple described Lord Clive, who is blamed for mass famine and plundering in Bengal, as an "unstable sociopath".
Hawke's Bay historian Michael Fowler said it would be possible to change the town's name if locals were against Lord Clive's legacy.
"If there are enough people that want to change the name and they take it to council, then it could change," he said.
Fowler said other areas around Hawke's Bay are also named after warring generals.
"If you look at Warren Hastings, Henry Havelock or Charles Napier closely, you'll find various controversial things too," he said.
Fowler added that it's "natural to judge history from afar through today's lens", and that Europeans in those times held men such as Robert Clive in high regard.
But, Fowler admitted that as times goes on, societies change whom they idolise.
"What is deemed acceptable can change dramatically - it's likely in a hundred years our society will be judged on a similar basis," he said.
"Most of us nowadays, I suspect are either unaware or aren't concerned about where our place names came from. The attachment to a name relates to more 'this is where I live or come from'."
Lord Clive also looted the Bengal treasury, taking the equivalent of $4.46 billion.
Alwyn Corban, Hastings District Council councillor for the Heretaunga Ward, said it's the role of the New Zealand Geographical Board to consider a name change.
"I would expect the community would have a strong voice in that however," he said.
New Zealand Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw said evidence is needed before contemplating changing a place name.
"The board requires documentary evidence of consultation with the relevant local council before it will consider a proposal to alter the name of a populated place such as Clive," she said.
"To date, the board has not received a proposal to alter Clive to its original Māori name, Waipureku."
Waipureku means "the meeting of waters" – reflecting the fact that the Tukituki and Ngaruroro Rivers once flowed together into a single outlet near the current overflow channels.
Merchant Taylors' School for Boys in Northwood, England, renamed its "Clive of India" house this month because of the military leader's links to colonialism.
After consulting with past and present students, headmaster Simon Everson said the name was to be changed to avoid associations with the "foundation of the Empire".
"Robert Clive has always been a controversial figure," Everson said. "His actions in India were the foundations of the Empire, but were also questioned by his own contemporaries."
Lord Clive attended the school himself, but was expelled for fighting.
The house was renamed after former pupil and cricketer John Raphael.
A vote was also held in Shropshire, England, last year over whether to remove a statue of Robert Clive from Shrewsbury town centre – but the council voted to keep it.
Clive locals told Hawke's Bay Today what their thoughts were on changing Clive's name back to Waipureku.
Resident Lynn Coyle, 76, said she wouldn't have a problem.
"I think it's a shame that so many places and names in New Zealand had their names changed and anglicised – they were here before us," she said. "The only issue is that I sometimes find the names hard to pronounce. "
Lifelong resident Ann Godwin, 84, said she doesn't want Clive's name changed.
"I've been brought up with it as Clive - that's how we know it and like it."
Jaye Sanders, 26, works in Clive and doesn't see why the name can't be changed back to its Māori one.
"Our generation is trying to grasp onto Te Reo Māori instead of making it an extinct language," Sanders said.