10 Oct 2013

Original Maori names for North and South Island approved

8:07 pm on 10 October 2013

The original Maori names for the North and South Islands have been approved by the Government to be officially used on maps.

On Thursday, Land Information Minister, Maurice Williamson, made a decision that Te Ika ā Māui for the North Island, and Te Wai Pounamu for the South Island can be used alternatively to their English equivalents.

Te Ika ā Māui, which means the Fish of Maui, refers to the story of the early Polynesian ancestor Maui who is said to have fished up the North Island.

And Te Wai Pounamu, or the waters of greenstone, makes reference to the South Island as being the source where greenstone is found.

Both names were also written on the maps British explorer Captain James Cook drew up in 1776 after he first made contact with tangata whenua.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says the Maori names also have historic and cultural significance and appeared on early maps and charts, including government maps, until the 1950s.

He says people can use whichever they prefer and they will not be forced to use both the English and Maori names together.

The New Zealand Geographic Board is also welcoming the decision and is happy people will have a choice about whether to use the English or Maori names for the country's two main islands.

Whanganui iwi welcomes official use of Maori names

A Whanganui iwi is welcoming the Government's approval to use the alternative Maori names for the North and South islands.

Te Atihaunui a Paparangi campaigned to correct the spelling of the city of Whanganui which the Government approved in 2009 after two referendums and recommendations by the Geographic Board - despite the majority of the city's residents opposing the move.

Whanganui iwi spokesperson Ken Mair says the decision shows that New Zealand society is finally embracing the Maori identity and history of the landscape.

He says it's tremendous news that the Maori names of the two main islands have been given recognition, remembering of course those names are historical names and hold deep cultural importance for everyone in New Zealand.

Mr Mair says New Zealanders should celebrate that decision because it shows a sign of maturity.

He says certainly over the past 10 years both Maori and Pakeha have been supporting moves to correct spelling mistakes, and for those ancestral names to be acknowledged officially on maps.