The Geographic Board has referred a decision on renaming two South Island places with the word 'nigger' in them to Land Information Minister Louise Upston after some submitters objected to the changes.

The Geographic Board started reviewing the place names of Nigger Hill, Nigger Stream and Niggerhead, in the foothills of the Southern Alps, in 2015 after a member of the public wrote to Ms Upston claiming the names were inappropriate in "modern, tolerant" New Zealand.

Ms Upston agreed the names were offensive and referred the person to the Geographic Board. The person proposed replacing the names with Kanuka Hill, Steelhead Stream and Tawhai Hill respectively.

After consulting on the changes, the Geographic Board has now referred the decision on whether to adopt the new names for Niggerhead and Nigger Hill back to Ms Upston because 61 of the 223 submissions had objected to the changes.


Mark Dyer, the chair of the Geographic Board, said the reasons for objections varied but some had believed the current names should remain. "Some submissions sought the retention of the existing names and some supported names other than those proposed."

The Geographic Board is to start a new round of consultation to find an a new name for Nigger Stream because several submissions pointed out that the trout in the stream were not the sea-running Steelhead Trout the initial proposed name referred to.

The use of Kanuka Hill related to the kanuka growing in the area while Tawhai Hill referred to the silver beech.

Nigger Hill is a group of hills in the foothills of the Southern Alps just north of the Esk River, Nigger Stream flows from Mount Turnbull to the Esk River and Niggerhead is a 1395m hill above the northern shores of Lake Sumner in the foothills of the Southern Alps.