Report to the Minister for Land Information on the 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' Name Change Proposal

Report title: New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa proposal to alter 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui': Summary of Submissions and the Board's Decision.

This page includes:

Other sections of the report are as follows:

A pdf version of this report (pdf 191KB) is also available.

Document Information

Date 12 October 2009
Security Level IN-CONFIDENCE
Priority High

Attachments

(Available with the printed version only)

  1. Process flowchart
  2. Original proposal from Te Rūnanga o Tupoho, submitted by law firm, McCaw Lewis Chapman
  3. Summary reports by the Secretary for Board meetings of 27 March 2009 and 16 September 2009
  4. Correspondence from the Wanganui District Council
  5. Minutes of the Board's meeting of 27 March 2009
    (Minutes for the Board's meeting of 16 September not yet available)
  6. New Zealand Gazette 2009 page 1498 – proposal to alter 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui'
  7. Submissions received – opposing, supporting, neutral
  8. Additional correspondence received outside the submission period
  9. Summaries of the submissions
  10. Research, early records, references
  11. Correspondence from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission)
  12. New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 (the Act)
  13. Whanganui River – report to Minister, dated 12 March 1991

 

Purpose: To report to the Minister for Land Information on the 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' name change proposal, with a summary of submissions and the Board's decision on the proposal together with reasons, and to seek the Minister's final determination.

 

Action Sought Deadline
Minister for Land Information
  1. Note the submitted proposal, the supporting evidence, the Board's consideration of this proposal and the submissions, the processes followed, the options considered by the Board, and the Board's decision, with reasons.
  2. Make any inquiry as you think fit.
  3. Confirm, Modify, or Reject the Board's decision.
  4. Note your determination on this proposal is final.
None

Signed on behalf of the Board by Dr Don Grant (Chairperson) on behalf of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa

Executive Summary

At its meeting on 16 September 2009, the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (the Board) confirmed its decision to alter the city name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui'.

You are now required to make a final determination on the name change proposal (section 20 of the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 (the Act)). This is because the Board received submissions objecting to the proposal and did not uphold those objections.

The Board now provides you with a summary of all submissions (objecting, supporting, neutral), together with its decision on this proposal, and reasons. The Board also advises you of the processes to be followed under the Act, and the options available for you to consider, noting that these do not limit your powers to consider any other possible options and outcomes and make your own determination.

You may make further inquiries as you think fit.

You may choose to confirm, modify, or reject the Board's decision and your determination is final.

Public notification of your final determination will be published by the Board in the New Zealand Gazette, in nationally and locally circulated news publications, and on the LINZ website.

Board's decision

Under section 18 of the Act, the Board, at its meeting of 16 September 2009, considered all of the submissions (objecting, supporting, neutral) as well as other correspondence received outside the submission period and additional research material that is relevant to the proposal to change the recorded name1 of 'Wanganui' to an official name2 of 'Whanganui'.

The matters raised by objectors were acknowledged but not upheld by the Board. The Board decided to accept the proposal to alter the name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' principally on the grounds of correct spelling and orthographic representation of Te Reo Māori.

The Board's decision is to alter the name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui', with a transitional period recommended of not less than 12 months during which time both 'Wanganui' and 'Whanganui' can be used.

Principal reason for the Board's decision

The principal reason for the Board's decision is on the grounds of correct spelling and orthographic representation of Te Reo Māori. The 12 month minimum transition period is an 'as soon as practicable period' and will ensure that costs are kept down for those affected.

Other reasons for the Board's decision

The reasons for the Board's support for the change were that:

  • the Board could not overlook the fact that 'Wanganui' is incorrectly spelt and it is a Māori name that is of significant cultural importance,
  • historical evidence has shown that early settlers clearly intended the name of the city to be derived from the Māori name for the river, and consistent modern usage of the language showed the spelling should be 'Whanganui', not 'Wanganui',
  • the advice of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) was that the spelling of 'Wanganui' is incorrect,
  • the word 'Whanganui' has meaning, but 'Wanganui' does not,
  • the fact that the issue of correct spelling dates back to the 1840s and has been raised repeatedly since then,
  • evidence of the use of the 'h' in early historical records and continuing use to this day,
  • the time has now come to correct the name,
  • the anomaly between the name of the river (the change to the river's name was confirmed by the Minister in 1991) and the name of the city is an issue which keeps arising and change is inevitable at some time,
  • many organisations and businesses are already using 'Whanganui',
  • iwi from the region strongly support the change,
  • the pronunciation of the name need not change and is, in any event, not the issue being considered by the Board, and
  • the effect on emergency services and postal delivery will not be adverse, as these agencies are already dealing with usage of both names in spelling and pronunciation.

Purpose

1
The purpose of this report is to meet the requirements of section 20 of the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 (the Act) to assist you in your determination on the Board's proposal to change the city name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui'.

Why You [Minister for Land Information] Are Required to Make This Decision

2
Under section 4 of the Act, the Board has naming jurisdiction over city names. Section 4 defines 'geographic feature' as including 'a place' and defines 'place' as including a city. The Board has jurisdiction to carry out its functions in relation to geographic features within New Zealand. Those functions include assigning an official geographic name for a geographic feature and altering an official geographic name or recorded name by substituting another name or correcting the spelling of a name.

3
850 formal submissions were received as a result of the public notification of this proposal. Under the Act, if there is one or more objection to a proposal, and the Board does not uphold any of those objections, the final decision is made by the Minister for Land Information.

4
The Board considered the objecting submissions under section 18 of the Act, and did not uphold any of those objections. Therefore, the Board was not empowered to make a final determination under section 19(1) of the Act.

5
When unable to make a final determination under section 19 of the Act, the Board must, under section 20 of the Act, report in writing to you, setting out a summary of all of the submissions received for the proposal, and advise you of its decision on the proposal, together with the reasons for that decision.

6
Under sections 20(2) and 20(3) of the Act, you may make any inquiry that you think fit, then you may confirm, modify, or reject the Board's decision, and your determination will be final.

7
Details of the process for assigning, altering, discontinuing, and approving official geographic names, are outlined in the flow chart in Attachment 1.

Process to Date

8
The process for assigning, altering, discontinuing, or approving a geographic name, as set out in the Act, generally begins with a proposal being made to the Board. The Board, which usually meets twice a year, may decide to:

  • defer the proposal for further information, research, or consultation; or
  • decline to make the change proposed; or
  • accept the proposal for notification.

9
Once a proposal is accepted, the decision is publicly notified. This provides the public with an opportunity to make submissions within a specified notification period of not less than one month. Submissions must be in writing and must state, with reasons, whether the person supports or objects to the proposal. An objecting submission may also provide an alternative name, or support an existing name, if any.

Proposal submitted by iwi

10
The submitter for this proposal is Te Rūnanga o Tupoho, who sought to correct the spelling for the name of the city of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' and make 'Whanganui' the official geographic name. Note that the proposal is not related to the name of the territorial authority district. Tupoho are the tangata whenua and have support from neighbouring iwi. The law firm McCaw Lewis Chapman submitted the proposal on behalf of Te Rūnanga o Tupoho. The proposal is included in Attachment 2 and covers:

  1. the view that the logical next step, after correcting the river name in 1991, is to correct the name for the city, which takes its name from the river,
  2. early evidence of the intended spelling as 'Whanganui',
  3. Waitangi Tribunal briefs of evidence by three separate claimant groups, and
  4. evidence of local and growing usage of 'Whanganui' as the spelling used by organisations and businesses in the city.

The submitter also provided:

  1. a written submission by Te Kenehi Mair on behalf of Te Rūnanga o Tupoho and Te Iwi o Whanganui,
  2. a consultation/communication report,
  3. a cultural report prepared by Che Wilson,
  4. an historical report prepared by Bruce Stirling,
  5. a Statement of Evidence by Rangi Wills (a current Wanganui Councillor) that was filed as part of the Wai 999/Te Poho o Matapihi hearings before the Waitangi Tribunal, and
  6. two historical maps referring to the town as Whanganui.

Board meeting 27 March 2009

11
The Board first considered the proposal on 27 March 2009. After considerable discussion, the Board acknowledged there was merit in the case that the correct spelling be 'Whanganui' and agreed to notify the proposal to alter the city name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' under section 16 of the Act.

12
A summary report (pdf, 226KB), set out in Attachment 3, brought together the Board's key discussion points. The Board thoroughly considered matters such as:

  • orthography3 and pronunciation,
  • standardised te reo Māori spelling,
  • the views of the Wanganui District Council following an 8 to 5 vote by Council (see Attachment 4),
  • general community views expressed through the results of the Council's 2006 referendum,
  • advice from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) (see Attachment 11),
  • historical and long term usage,
  • the Treaty of Waitangi claim currently being heard by the Waitangi Tribunal,
  • the early name for the town given after the river and the fact that the river name was corrected to Whanganui in 1991 when the Minister confirmed the recommendation of the Board,
  • options for alternative or dual naming,
  • options for deferral,
  • timing,
  • the unofficial status of the existing name of 'Wanganui',
  • the Board's statutory obligations, and
  • the Board's policies and guidelines developed over many years.

Minutes of the Board's discussion are under Attachment 5.

13
The following is a resolution from the minutes of the Board's meeting of 27 March 2009:

The Board:

  1. accepts the proposal to change the spelling of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui', based chiefly on the Board's statutory functions:
    • to examine the spelling of place names;
    • to collect original Māori place names;
    • to encourage the use of original Māori place names; and
    • to seek advice from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) on Māori place name orthography.
  2. notes the decision is also based on the fact that tangata whenua and many iwi from the region strongly support the change; that many other people support the change (though they are a minority); and many other organisations now use 'Whanganui' in their business names.
  3. proceeds to publish in the New Zealand Gazette and publicly notify as a Board proposal, for a period of not less than 3 months. The Board will determine which newspapers or publications to notify in.
  4. recognises that submissions objecting to such a proposal that are not upheld by the Board would result in the final determination being made by the Minister for Land Information.
Resolution

The Board, in noting that it has a function to investigate/consider the correct spelling of original Māori names, and that there is a valid case made to change the spelling of the name of the city, and that the public should be given an opportunity to make their views known directly to the Board, resolves to proceed to publicly notify for a period of 3 months, the proposal to correct the spelling from 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui'.

Public Consultation

14
On 14 May 2009, the Board notified the proposal to alter 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui' in accordance with section 16 of the Act. Consultation seeking the views of New Zealanders began on 14 May 2009 and concluded on 17 August 2009, with written submissions being sought in support of or objecting to the proposal. Refer to the New Zealand Gazette 2009, page 1498, set out in Attachment 6.

15
A summary of the submissions is provided from paragraph 22 below.

Board meeting 16 September 2009

16
At this meeting, the Board considered the matters raised by all submitters, correspondents, and additional research obtained by or made available to the Board.

17
The summary report (Attachment 3) prepared for the Board brought together the key discussion points. All relevant matters were thoroughly considered.

18
The Board acknowledged the opposition and the depth of feeling and debate that has surfaced. However, in weighing up all of the evidence, submissions, research, and its own policies and guidelines, the Board unanimously agreed to accept the proposal that the spelling should be corrected by assigning the name 'Whanganui'. This would meet the Board's statutory functions to:

  • examine the spelling of place names,
  • seek advice from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) on Māori place name orthography,
  • collect original Māori place names, and
  • encourage the use of original Māori place names.

 

1. Recorded name is defined in section 4 of the Act.

2. Official name is defined in section 4 of the Act.

3. The linguistic term for a writing system that represents the sounds or words of a particular language, using correct or standardised spelling according to established usage.