An alternative spelling for Wanganui as "Whanganui" is about to be officially recognised.
The spelling of the city's name has sparked a heated debate since early 2009, when an iwi group applied to have the city spelt with an 'H'.
Today, Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson said the passing of two amendments to the Geographic Board Act 2008 will provide better clarity and consistency around official place names.
Williamson said that the first amendment fixes an anomaly where
the Act could have been interpreted as requiring all alternative
place names to be used in official documentation and
"This is inconsistent with the Act's intent to provide flexibility where a feature or locality is known by more than one name, and to reflect the diverse perspectives that exist when it comes to place names. As such, this amendment makes it clear that either name, or both, can be used," he said.
"An example of this is Wanganui and Whanganui - either of which can be used in official documentation following the passing of this legislation. The Geographic Board will gazette these names in the coming weeks."
The second amendment requires the Conservation Minister to notify the New Zealand Geographic Board if the name of a Crown protected area is discontinued, and empowers the Board to remove the name from the Gazetteer of Official Geographic Names.
"These amendments will enhance the clarity and certainty of the Geographic Board Act," said Williamson.
The gazetting of "Whanganui" as an alternative official
geographic name means "the long wait for Whanganui iwi for the
correct spelling of Whanganui to be recognised," says Te Tai
Hauauru MP, Tariana Turia.
"Somewhat ironically, the correct meaning for the name, Whanganui is the long wait (Whanga meaning to wait; nui meaning large or long). The name originates from the time of Kupe, the great navigator; Te Whanga-nui-a-Kupe," Turia said.
"I think today of the long wait for Whanganui iwi for the correct spelling of Whanganui to be recognised. There have been local body referenda; District Council meetings; submissions to the New Zealand Geographic Board and finally Minister Williamson's decision in December 2009 to gazette Whanganui and Wanganui as alternative geographic names."
That decision was then "held in limbo by the Green Party" who were the only party to oppose the current Statutes Amendment Bill, Turia said.
"Statutes Amendment Bills only occur when there is unanimous
support across the House, so I am relieved that finally, after
three years of delay the Greens have allowed the Bill to
"The name Whanganui has a meaning and a history that is unique to the Whanganui river, the rohe, and the iwi. It always was and always will be a M?ori word. This is about te reo M?ori. It is about identity. It is about culture."
Turia said she is pleased that the decision today reinforces the integrity of the Maori language, as well as restoring the mana of Whanganui iwi.