24 May 2016

Blenheim name change push continues

7:23 pm on 24 May 2016

The promoters of changing Blenheim's name to Marlborough City say the reaction was more than they expected, and they want people to consider the idea carefully.

Seymour Square Blenheim

Seymour Square Blenheim Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

A group of business people from the region has floated the idea of changing the town's name to Marlborough City, to link it with the global sucess of its wine industry.

They said the name Marlborough was now widely recognised because of the wine industry, but hardly anyone knew where Blenheim was.

The group said they were tired of jokes about the district's principal town, and wanted to change the name to leverage off the success of the wine industry, and make the area more attractive to visitors.

Commentators have taken to the internet to express their views, saying things like Blenheim needed a lot more than a name change to make it less boring.

Blenheim's ASB Theatre

ASB Theatre is the latest addition to Blenheim's attractions. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Others agreed it was a good idea, but was "pushing the proverbial uphill" given the fierce opposition.

Mitchell Gardiner is sales manager at winegrower Allan Scott Family Estate. He was surprised by the amount of negative feedback received, mainly online.

"We're getting a lot more bad press than good, but anything that gets us talking about Marlborough is surely a good thing," he said.

But retired Marlborough farmer Wallace Leov, whose family has been in Marlborough since the 1860s, preferred the status quo. "It's only a hamlet or a village anyway. Why be so bold with a city?"

Mr Leov cautioned against hanging all hopes on the wine industry as a reason for change.

"We go in bursts, and we're having one of those at the moment, but you only have to have sauvignon blanc go out of fashion a bit, and because we're so reliant on the grapes we can go into a backwater very quickly.

"So I'd be reluctant to see a change," Mr Leov said.

Blenheim's population of just over 26,500 means it falls short of the 50,000 threshold needed to become a city.

Nelson City's 46,000 population was also in that league, but it was granted Letters Patent by Queen Victoria in 1858, because it was the seat of a bishop.

Taken by surprise

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the idea had caught him by surprise, and while it had merit he did not support the idea.

"It's a big job to change the name of a town, especially when you want to equate it with wine regions, and I think this is where they've made a mistake.

"If you look at the wine regions around the world - Bordeaux, Burgundy - they're all regions, and Marlborough is a wine region. I thought promoting the region would have been a better deal."

Alistair Sowman

Blenheim Mayor Alistair Sowman Photo: Supplied

Mr Sowman said while the name change idea had some merit, the cons would outweigh the pros.

But Mr Gardiner said people needed to give the idea a chance.

"I guess the original concept when we first talked about changing the name was only to benefit Marlborough anyway," he said.

The group planned to set up a working party to progress the idea and better inform people about what they are trying to achieve.

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