The Guardian

Māoris launch petition to make New Zealand’s name Aotearoa

- Tess McClure Christchur­ch

The Māori party has launched a petition to change New Zealand’s official name to Aotearoa, the Māori, indigenous language name for the country.

“It’s well past time that te reo Māori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country,” the Te Pāti Māori leaders, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie NgarewaPac­ker said in a statement launching the petition. “We are a Polynesian country – we are Aotearoa.”

“Aotearoa is a name that will unify our country rather than divide it,” Waititi said. “This is an inclusive tool, where our ancestors consented to us all living on this whenua [land] together. New Zealand is a Dutch name. Even the Dutch have changed their name – from Holland to the Netherland­s.”

The petition calls on the government to “identify and officially restore the original te reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places right across the country” over the next five years.

Te Pāti Māori said successive government­s and “the imposition of a colonial agenda in the education system” had resulted in widespread language loss among Māori, with fluency dropping from 90% to 20% over the past 90 years.

Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said last year that an official name change, was “not something we’ve explored”, but that she supported more people using the name, calling it a “positive thing”.

“Whether or not we change it in law I don’t think changes the fact New Zealanders do increasing­ly refer to Aotearoa, and I think that’s a transition that has been welcomed.”

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