Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare says debates around name changes such as adding "h" to Wanganui are storms in a teacup.
The head of the Geographic Board says it was the advice of Te Taurawhiri i Te Reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission, that influenced the decision to recommend the change. The board says early settlers always intended the name of the city should match that of the river.
Mr Henare told Morning Report that alterations to place names elsewhere all faced initial opposition, but that quickly disappeared.
He said people have moved away from common sense to take up polarised positions based on race and whether one group has more power than another.
Mr Henare said it would be a sad day if the Land Information Minister, Maurice Williamson, decides to reject the board's decision.
Public law firm Chen Palmer founding partner Mai Chen says there's no prescribed way the minister should make the decision, and it is entirely up to him.
Mr Williamson says it's an unenviable position to be in, but there's no time limit on when he has to make his decision.
Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia of Wanganui has welcomed the decision as the right thing to do.
She told Waatea News it won't affect the way the name is pronounced.