Learn about the creation of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB) in 1946 and how the naming authority has evolved. Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa means "the memorial markers of the landscape".

Formal naming is a relatively recent activity in the nation’s development, with the role of the country’s national naming authority, the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB), evolving to match New Zealand’s growing interests and place in the world.

The names and traditions of Māori

Many of the names throughout New Zealand reflect that tangata whenua Māori, New Zealand’s first settlers, have lived here for many centuries. New Zealand’s connections with the Pacific can be traced through the many names brought from Polynesia and the naming stories or traditions found in the Cook Islands, Tahiti and Hawai'i.

European settlement and the formalising of place names

European place names appeared in increasing numbers with the organised settlement of New Zealand by the British in the 1840s.

Legislative provisions for place naming in New Zealand were under the umbrella of the Royal Geographic Society of London until the Designations of Districts Act 1894 gave the Governor-General of New Zealand authority to alter or assign place names in the colony.

One of the early reasons for an authority on place names was to avoid confusion when post offices, railway stations, etc were named. In 1924 the Minister of Lands approved the formation of the Honorary Geographic Board of New Zealand to adjudicate on questions about place and feature names in New Zealand.

The NZGB 1946 to the present

The Honorary Geographic Board of New Zealand lacked the necessary legislative power to implement its decisions, so it acted in an advisory capacity until 1946 when the present New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa was established under the New Zealand Geographic Board Act 1946 (repealed).

Since then New Zealand has become more involved in the administration of the Ross Dependency in Antarctica (including survey, mapping and charting activities). New Zealand's changing role in Antarctica is one of the reasons that lead to a review of the 1946 Act in mid-2000.

In 1959, a United Nations resolution paved the way for the establishment of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN).

On 1 November 2008 the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 came into force.

New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008

New Zealand Geographic Board Act 1946 (repealed)

United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names