22 May 2009

Majority of voters happy with spelling of Wanganui

8:31 pm on 22 May 2009

The majority of people voting in a Wanganui referendum say they want their city's name spelled without an "h".

A record turnout voted in the district's fifth referendum. Of 31,000 voting papers, 19,000 were returned.

Just over three quarters, or 78%, of voters supported the current spelling of Wanganui.

The number of people who wanted the spelling to be changed to "Whanganui" increased slightly.

The tally now becomes part of Wanganui District Council's submission to the New Zealand Geographic Board's deliberations over the place name.

Mayor Michael Laws wants to make an application for the current spelling to be made official, in direct opposition to a Maori bid that it should be spelled with an "h".

Lawyers have advised the council it could make an application to the board for the current spelling to be formally gazetted.

Mr Laws says he does not care if that puts him in conflict with Whanganui's Tupoho hapu, which wants the "h" added.

Meanwhile, voters in the referendum preferred a rates rise of 5% or leaving the council to decide, instead of a 3% or 7% option.

Residents voted against selling Wanganui District Council's retail energy company and its pensioner flats.

Gang insignia ban

Wanganui District Councillors unanimously voted to ban gang insignia in the city.

The ban will take effect in July, on the day its enabling legislation comes into force.

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows warned councillors that parliamentarians had expected smaller, more specific areas would be covered.

But councillors agreed that a ban encompassing the city would reduce the visual impact of anti-gang signs.