The Daily Telegraph
Maoris petition to change name of New Zealand to Aotearoa
WHEN Dutch sailors first spotted a chain of rugged Pacific islands, cartographers named their discovery Nova Zeelandia after a province in their homeland without even stepping ashore to meet the native Māori people.
Now, a little less than 500 years later, the Māori Party is pushing to change the official name of New Zealand to their own name of Aotearoa, or “the land of the white cloud”.
It launched a petition for change yesterday, reopening long-running tensions over not just the name of the country but its cities and landmarks.
The move drew lukewarm support from Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, but was labelled “dumb extremism” by politicians on the Right.
Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-packer said their campaign aims to use Māori names for all towns, cities and places by 2026.
“It’s well past time that te reo Māori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country. We are a Polynesian country, we are Aotearoa,” Mr Waititi said.
“Tangata whenua (Māori people) are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored. It’s the 21st century, this must change,” he said.
MPS will now consider the proposals but they are unlikely to be passed as the Māori Party only holds two of 120 seats in parliament.
Ms Ardern said her government has “no plans to go through an official process to change the name of New Zealand”, but she is “encouraged by the fact that people are using place names interchangeably”.
The move has been attacked by Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, who described it as “Left-wing radical bull dust”. He added: “Changing our country’s name and town and city names is just dumb extremism. We are not changing to some name with no historical credibility. We are for keeping us New Zealand.”
Judith Collins, leader of the National Party, has previously raised concerns that the name Aotearoa was already being implemented “by stealth”.
Some government departments have already adopted Maori names and in recent years political leaders and private companies have began to use Aotearoa more frequently but a change has never been made official.
Under the proposed changes, Auckland would become Tāmaki-makaurau, Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, would be Te Whanganui-atara, Christchurch would be Ōtautahi, and Dunedin would be Ōtepoti.
Mr Waitit added: “New Zealand is a Dutch name. Even the Dutch have changed their name – from Holland to the Netherlands, for Christ’s sake.”