New Zealand Islands may Adopt Maori Tribal Names

April 21, 2009

(ChattahBox)—New Zealand’s North and South Islands may soon be officially renamed to names of Maori origin, after residents have known the two Islands by their current monikers for over two hundred years. The name change suggestion all came about when the New Zealand Geographic Board discovered the current island names were never officially certified into law, prompting the suggestion of adopting Maori names, in common usage by local indigenous tribes.

The idea has set off a firestorm of criticism from residents opposed to the idea, suggesting the name change proposal is political correctness run amok.

The proposal calls for South Island to be renamed to Te Wai Pounamu, which means place of greenstone, referring to the beautiful jade cliffs on the Island. North Island would be renamed to Te Ika a Maui, meaning the fish of Maui, which refers to the Maori legend that the Island was raised from the bottom of the sea by the god Maui.

Don Grant, the board’s chairman, says the current names and the new Maori tribal names could all be made official. Tourism officials and Maori tribal leaders support the official change to the much-used Maori names. However, others feel the change to Maori names ignores the contributions of European ancestors.

The islands’ names originated from early European whalers and seafarers for convenience in mapping the area, but at the same time 17th century explorer, Captain James Cook recorded Maori names for the islands when mapping the country.

Whatever official names are adopted for the two islands, that won’t affect the local monikers in use by locals. South Island is commonly referred to as “the Mainland,” because it’s the larger of the two islands, and North Island is called “Pig Island,” because of the large population of wild pigs having their way on the island.

The board plans to consult with Maori tribes in the next few weeks, opening up suggestions to the public next year, before any final names are adopted.



One Response to “New Zealand Islands may Adopt Maori Tribal Names”

  1. Joe Monga on May 7th, 2009 9:20 pm

    I don”t see why a new name should be implemented if AOTEAROA is not good enough. If its a concern because the two islands are separated, then why not call it AOTEA and TEAROA which came from the word AOTEAROA. Thats my opinion! Thanks..Joe

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