LATELY I've been musing how sometimes good things take time. It's two years this week since the name of our district was officially changed to Whanganui.

It's one of the legacies of Annette Main's mayoralty that the district name has been corrected and I hope she continues to feel satisfaction about steering the council waka in the right direction.

We are still in a process of becoming Whanganui - one that began right back in 1991 when the name of the awa was changed.

The decision in 2009 that either spelling was okay was unwieldy and smelt of a political cop-out. But maybe we all just needed a bit more water to pass under the bridge so that our memory of Michael Laws using the issue to polarise the community could further recede.


I was sorry to see Horizons Regional Council hold out for so long, but at least now there is a decision that our region name (Manawatu-Whanganui) also needs an 'H' and that is winding its way through the legal process.

I've been curious for a while about how those organisations that have Wanganui as part of their name are responding. There were 99 listings in the 2016-2017 White Pages of organisations whose names began with Wanganui; and just 24 whose names began with Whanganui.

A year on, I expected that to have changed quite a lot. It hasn't. This year, there are 95 listings starting with Wanganui and 22 with the 'H'.

There is no legal reason why organisations can't continue to spell their name as Wanganui: the name is decided by a company constitution or association rules, not the New Zealand Geographic Board.

But when (or if) an organisation decides to go with the 'H', it's a straightforward process. For a company, the board makes a resolution, then the company secretary can go online to register the change. Cost? Ten bucks.

Many of Whanganui's community organisations and clubs are incorporated societies. For those with Wanganui in their name, a decision to change the spelling needs to happen according to the provisions in their particular governing rules.

Typically this would mean a vote by members at an annual meeting or special general meeting. The change is then registered with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, which can be done online for free.

But there are practical implications of a name change that do cost money: updating the organisation's stationery, signage and website - although surely letterhead or even business cards aren't as important or used as much as they once were.


For people who don't have a strong view either way, that may be the deterrent. But when those changes are required anyway, it's a no-brainer to get the spelling right.

And thats what Community House Whanganui did; when it moved across the road to its present building, the address needed to be updated and manager Jan Dunphy figured it was the perfect time to update the logo and add the 'H' to their name.

She recalls that when the issue had been raised a couple of years earlier it was quite controversial. When the organisation revisited it, the member organisations were ready to make the change. People thought, why not? Were going to have to do it eventually, Jan says.

Speaking with Hinemoa Ransom-Boyd at H&A Print was interesting. (Printers of course have an excellent perspective on who is doing what with their stationery.)

She pointed out that some types of businesses - like local law and accounting firms - got on board early, adopting the 'H' in their address and on their website. (Richard Austin from Treadwell Gordon says it is four years since the firm made the change and clients barely noticed.)

Hinemoa's sense is that people see the change as inevitable. If clients ask her advice, she advocates a gentle, when you're ready approach; and to do it when other changes are required to the rules, for instance.

However, she reckons many incorporated associations need to review their rules anyway. The rules will specify how notices to members are to be sent and when (so many days before an annual meeting, for instance).

Do the rules only refer to postal mail as the method by which members are contacted? Clubs that have shifted to email to keep in touch with their members should be updating their rules to reflect those new digital realities.

It has to be okay for it to take as much time as needed to get the whole community on board, here in Whanganui. But national businesses should get their act together - I'm thinking of the likes of Trade Me and that still make me select Wanganui from their drop down boxes.

But the change I really want to see is to this publication. I'm told there was a lot of discussion back when the name of the district was officially changed about the Wanganui Chronicle changing its name too. But it didn't happen: the decision was stymied by upper management, or so it was said.

But two more years have passed. And an anniversary - or even a new year - would be a fitting time to introduce the Whanganui Chronicle, don't you think?

-Rachel Rose is a Whanganui-based writer and editor who has never been lacking in opinions. More information at