Levin or Taitoko? Debate surfaced last week over what to call the Horowhenua town.

It turns out, the Government does not officially recognise either name.

For the past 130 years, Levin has been widely regarded as the town's name, but it appears no-one ever got around to assigning it.

According to the New Zealand Geographic Board - the government body for place names - Levin was not the town's official name and neither was Taitoko.

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Board secretary Wendy Shaw said there was historical reference to the name Taitoko but more research would be required to confirm it as the original Māori name.

Because Levin was not an official name, other names such as Taitoko could be used, Shaw said.

Levin was an "unofficial recorded" name, according to the geographic board.

Shaw said there were 4000 unofficial recorded place names in New Zealand and only 600 official names. Foxton Beach was one of the 600.

Foxton, Manakau, Ohau, Shannon, Tokomaru and Levin were all unofficial recorded names.

The geographic board has a fast-track process underway to approve the 4000 recorded names as official but only when there was no public opposition and no other known name for a place.

Shaw said Levin was also known as Taitoko so Levin could not simply be approved as the official name.

Many Muaūpoko iwi were known to favour a return to Taitoko as the town's official name.

It was possible Levin might never officially claim the name it had been given since the late 1880s when the Crown controversially obtained 1619ha (4000 acres) to create the town.

In April, Horowhenua District Council prominently included Taitoko for the first time in the title of a council draft strategy document - Transforming Taitoko/Levin.

The first time the Horowhenua District Council used Taitoko on an official document.
The first time the Horowhenua District Council used Taitoko on an official document.

In late May, a post on the Horowhenua District Council Facebook page said it had no proposal to change Levin's name.

In two following posts, the council dropped Levin from the strategy's publicity, referring to it simply as Transferring Taitoko.

District mayor Michael Feyen said he knew of no council proposal for a name change but any such proposal would need to consult with iwi from the outset.

Feyen said the Horowhenua District Council would have been better to resolve the name before putting Taitoko on the document.

"It should have been done right and presented to the public in a balanced way.

"It's almost like it's causing argument and division right from the start," he said.