A battle over the use of macrons on the Wikipedia page for a small town in Kāpiti is sparking hot debate online, even from people who don't live there.

Arguments began on a Wikipedia discussion page after Paekākāriki man Miles Thompson noticed that someone had edited out the macrons he added to the town's name.

Thompson took to the website's notice board to ask if the macrons could be added back in, and to seek clarification and an adjustment to apparently contradictory Wikipedia naming conventions.

The first convention states Māori words should be given macrons when appropriate when they appear as the title of articles, but the second, which is still under discussion, says macrons are not to be used for Māori place names.


The rule seemed "a little extreme" to Thompson, who said the Kāpiti Coast District Council has been spelling Paekākāriki with macrons since 2010.

But Auckland man Ross Finlayson, who removed the macrons from the Wikipedia page, said the version without macrons was the "English-language spelling" of the word, which should be used instead of the Māori version as it was an English Wikipedia page.

Finlayson, who did not want to speak to the Herald, wrote on the discussion page that he had taken a virtual drive through the town on Google Street View and "overwhelmingly" saw signs spelling the name without macrons.

"By any measure, the unmacronised version remains by far the more common usage in English," he said.

"Also, one of the guiding principles for Wikipedia is that editors should strive to maintain a 'neutral point of view'. Wikipedia should not be used to advance an agenda."

Finlayson said there was no basis for the macronised spelling to be considered the correct version, and that Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) uses the unmacronised version.

He pointed to other instances where English Wikipedia pages did not use macrons or accents on place names, such as with San Jose instead of San José, and Hawaii instead of Hawai'i.

Secretary of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa Wendy Shaw confirmed that while maps often used the name without macrons, it was not official.


"Paekākāriki Hill for the hill and the surrounding rural locality are both official names, having been through the Board's process. The Board's research at the time confirmed that the use of macrons was correct, based on expert advice.

"The variation in the spelling is reflected in the Board's Gazetteer, which lists the names of New Zealand place names and features."

Thompson told the Herald because the name of the town was a Māori one it should be spelled with macrons, as to leave them out changed the meaning of the name.

"I think it's potentially misleading or confusing."

He said the te reo phrase "he keke māu" translated to "would you like some cake?"

But the simple addition of two macrons, "he kēkē māu", changed it to "would you like some armpit?"

The name Paekākāriki predated English settlement "and you know if you were going to write it down the way that it's pronounced, then you need to use the macrons".

He said things such as mangled GPS pronunciations could be fixed with some programming and correct spelling.

He also felt there was "a degree of respect" involved in spelling the town with the macrons.

"This is the name of the place that was given, and you should try to respect it by saying it correctly and spelling it correctly.

"It's pretty clear that macrons are a key part of understanding the vowels."

The English translation of Paekākāriki is "the perching place of the kākāriki".

A Kāpiti Coast District Council spokesperson said macrons are used in council papers, publication and signage.

A spokeswoman for the Wikimedia Foundation said volunteer editors collaboratively decide on the naming conventions, and the foundation does not make editorial decisions itself on Wikipedia.

"Volunteer Wikipedia editors regularly have discussions on Wikipedia about the best way to document and share information on the site, and that includes discussions around how to adapt or evolve Wikipedia policies and guidelines to fit those needs," she said.

She said more than 200,000 volunteer editors write, add to, and improve Wikipedia's articles every month.

Users do not need to have an account to edit the pages and be part of the discussions and policy-making.