Peter Marriott kept the surname of a father he never knew for 19 years - until an "epiphany" spurred him to change it.

Formerly known as Peter Blandford, it had never occurred to him to change his surname to match his mother and stepfather's. His own father died before he was born.

The now 69-year-old decided as a teenager to become one of the thousands of Kiwis every year who apply to change their names in New Zealand, because it suddenly made sense to him to have the same name as his living parents.

On average, the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages registers 7000 name changes a year. These do not include people's name automatically changing once they marry, as husbands and wives are free to start using their partner's surname without having to make any application to do so.

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About 2000 children, 4600 adults, and even one 96-year-old legally changed their names last year.

Fifty years ago when Marriott made the switch himself, it was a different world.

"When I was about 19 I suddenly had an epiphany and changed it, by deed poll, to my mother's new surname, Marriott. If I rightly remember, it cost about $90 to do so back then."

He considered having a "double-banger" surname but decided he wasn't "that sort of person". But if he had, he would have been "a sort of pioneer", given not many people had double-barrelled surnames at the time.

For kids under 18 going through a name change, one of the more common reasons was so they could share their parent's new surname after a marriage.

All the parents or legal guardians of a child must sign an official form before the child's name can be changed, or a court order can be made.

Last year 1964 children in New Zealand had one of their names changed, a slight drop from the previous two years, with 2036 registered in 2016 and 2037 the year before that.

Out of the 7000-odd people who registered a name change with the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages last year, three people switched to having only one name, instead of having both a first name and a surname.

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The department would not reveal why each of those three people made the switch, but anyone wanting to have only one name must submit a letter explaining their religious, cultural, or philosophical reasons to do so.

It's a bit simpler for people registering a straightforward name change, as long as they don't pick a banned name.

There are plenty more reasons someone might choose to change their name - for Napier woman Margie Campbell, it was about connecting with her family history.

"I absolutely loathed my middle name that I was given," she said.

Campbell, whose middle name was Ann, applied to change it when she was 14.

"I have quite a strong Scottish heritage in my family, which I particularly connect with," said Campbell, now 52.

"It's on my father's side. For hundreds and hundreds of years every male in his family has been John Alexander or Alexander John . . . I got it into my head that I wanted to change my middle name to Alexandra.

"My mum and dad had to sign off. I was stoked and dad was stoked too . . . dad actually thought it was quite a nice thing to do.

"There's something about Scottish blood, I think. It runs very thick," said Campbell, who later in life got her family crest tattooed on her shoulder.

"I guess it's a side of my family that I really relate to."

By the numbers

Names changed in 2017: 7186

Change to having only one name in 2017: 3

People over 80 who changed their names in 2017: 23

Biggest age group to get names changed: 18-year-olds