This section presents information on the NZGB's achievements and performance.

Deciding geographic names

Geographic names help us find where we are and where we want to be, whether on land or undersea, and are important for emergency services and maritime safety. Geographic names are also important landmarks of the history, culture and identity of our nation and the communities within it.

The rules for geographic naming in New Zealand have evolved and developed over many years, with a strong emphasis by today’s Board on preserving and restoring original Māori names. Since the 1970s there has been a steady move towards greater recognition of the significance of Māori geographic names in New Zealand’s history and culture. This has lead to a resurgence of interest in Māori geographic names, particularly through Treaty of Waitangi settlements, which have included the restoration of original Māori geographic names as part of cultural redress. There is a close relationship between acceptance of Māori place names and the revitalisation of the Māori language within the broader context of recognition of cultural and heritage values.

Recognising this, the Board is beginning to accept the use of more commonly known Māori generic geographic terms to reflect its partnership with Māori and to help with language revitalisation required by Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016 (the Māori Language Act 2016).


In 2016/17, the Board made 1558 geographic name decisions across its jurisdiction.


Naming in New Zealand

A significant amount of the Board’s work is assigning new geographic names and altering existing geographic names, based on proposals received from the public.

Anyone can make a proposal for a new or altered geographic name (see figure 1 for an overview of the process). The Board has improved the quality of proposals it receives by clearly informing people about its naming criteria. Find out more about how to propose a place name.


Overview of the process for proposing new or altered geographic names in New Zealand

  1. Proposal received
  2. Research and report by board secretariat
  3. Board considers proposal
  4. Proposal publicly notified seeking submissions
  5. Board considers submissions
  6. Board or Minister make final decision
  7. Official geographic name gazetted
  8. Gazetteer updated

1. Proposal received

When a new geographic name proposal is received, the Board Secretariat assesses it for completeness, before it can be processed. This includes ensuring that consultation with affected people, including the local community and iwi, has occurred. Without these minimum requirements, the Board will not have the necessary information to make a decision on the proposal.

2. Research and report by Board Secretariat

The Board Secretariat undertakes further research and communicates directly with groups such as local councils and local iwi (guided by Te Puni Kōkiri). A proposal report is prepared for the Board’s consideration.

3. Board considers proposal

The Board considers the proposal at its next meeting and decides whether or not to support the proposal. If it does not support the proposal, the process ends.

4. Proposal publicly notified seeking submissions

If the Board supports the proposal it is notified on the LINZ website, in newspapers and other publications, asking for supporting or objecting submissions from the public with reasons. Media releases, editorials and social media such as Facebook are other important ways of engaging with as many people as possible. For the Board to make an informed, robust and enduring decision on the proposal, it is critical that it understands the views of the local community, including iwi.

5. Board considers submissions

Once the notification period closes, the Board reviews any submissions received.

6. Board or Minister make final decision

If there are no submissions or only supporting submissions, the Board makes the final decision to make the proposed geographic name official. However, the more successful the consultation with communities, the more likely it is that the Board will receive divergent views on proposals. If the Board upholds submissions objecting to the name it is the Board that makes the final decision. However, if the Board does not agree with objecting submissions, then the Minister for Land Information makes the final decision.

7. Official geographic name gazetted

The Board publishes the final decision in the New Zealand Gazette as conclusive evidence of the official geographic name.

8. Gazetteer updated

The decision is also added to the Board’s Gazetteer – an online repository for all geographic names that includes additional contextual information, including position, extent and history/origin/meaning.


Proposals notified and submissions received in 2016/17

In 2016/17 the Board publicly notified 16 proposals (see table 1 below). At year end, the notification period was still open for two of these proposals. Forty-two submissions were received relating to six of the notified proposals.

Table 1. Proposals notified and submissions received in 2016/17
Geographic nameLocationSubmissions received
MangatawaTauranga2 supporting
Blomfield CreekWestland-
Mount BlomfieldWestland-
Blomfield RangeWestland-
Kapitia CreekKumara5 supporting, 1 objecting
Kapitia DamKumara11 supporting, 7 objecting
Kapitia HillKumara4 supporting, 1 objecting
Kapitia ReservoirKumara6 supporting, 1 objecting
Eliott RidgeCragieburn-
Lammerlaw CreekDunedin4 supporting
Maclaurin RidgeCragieburn-
Marshall RidgeCragieburn-
Motutere / Castle RockCoromandelConcludes September 2017
Mount EliottCragieburn-
Mount MarianneCragieburn-
Rocky BayWaiheke IslandConcludes September 2017
Total Submissions: 42

Decisions made in 2016/17 included the final decisions on three proposals to change three offensive ‘Nigger’ geographic names in the South Island or Te Waipounamu. They have been changed to ‘Kānuka Hills’, ‘Tawhai Hill’ and ‘Pūkio Stream’, which are Māori words for local alpine flora. The proposals attracted considerable media and public attention along with several hundred submissions. The Minister for Land Information made the final decisions on the three proposals in December 2016.


42 submissions were received relating to six of the notified proposals.


Approving and adopting recorded place names as official

Recorded geographic names appear on maps, charts or databases that the Board considers to be authoritative. By making a geographic name official, consistency can be applied across officially published material, avoiding confusion and ambiguity. This provides certainty for government and communities. The use of official geographic names is an element of an address that enables unique identification of a property.

There are over 30,000 recorded geographic names that are not official geographic names. It is a key focus of the Board to ensure as many recorded geographic names as possible are converted into official geographic names. There is a fast-track process available under section 24 of the Act. This applies where there is no other name known for a feature and the existing recorded geographic name is unlikely to attract public objection. The Board undertakes research to ensure these two criteria are met.

Since 2013 the Board has approved 1475 recorded geographic names as official geographic names. However, the Board is not satisfied with the speed of converting recorded geographic names to official, so is exploring how it might speed this process up, with a view to completion within the next decade or sooner.

In 2016/17 the Board approved 537 recorded geographic names as official geographic names.


Naming undersea features

Naming undersea features on New Zealand’s continental shelf recognises New Zealand’s sense of place, and contributes to managing those areas for science, exploration, protection and maritime safety purposes.

To date the Board’s Undersea Feature Names Committee has successfully reviewed and processed 60% of the 857 existing recorded undersea feature names within its jurisdiction. In 2016/17 the Board gazetted a further 122 official undersea feature names.

The Board continues to work closely with a group of international experts, the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN), to ensure that New Zealand’s undersea feature names beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial boundary are accepted for use on international graphic and digital products.


Since 2013 the Board has approved 1475 recorded geographic names as official geographic names.


Naming in Antarctica

Naming places and features in Antarctica supports operational safety, provides a consistent science reference, represents New Zealand’s active presence and role, preserves historical geographic names given by early expeditions, and guards against over-naming a pristine environment to preserve its wilderness characteristics.

The Board’s Antarctic Names Committee liaises with other international naming authorities, such as the Australian Antarctic Division Place Names Committee and United States Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, which might have an interest in new proposals.

In 2016/17, the Antarctic Names Committee began a full review of New Zealand’s Antarctic geographic names to improve coordinates and add other administrative information. The Antarctic Names Committee completed several longstanding investigations and resolved a significant number of historical errors. 583 names were gazetted, including corrections or improvements. The coordinates for a quarter of New Zealand’s Antarctic geographic names were also reconfirmed, corrected, or improved.

This review contributes to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information’s drive to improve Antarctic geographic information and the international SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica. An accurate and up-to-date SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica:

  • promotes New Zealand’s interests in Antarctica,
  • helps prevents features from being over-named by other countries, and
  • provides a common reference framework for those working in Antarctica.

In 2016/17, a new geographic name, Naish Peaks, was assigned, recognising Professor Timothy Naish, Director of Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre.


Treaty of Waitangi settlement names

The Board makes recommendations on geographic name proposals from Treaty of Waitangi claimant groups as part of the Treaty settlement process. Restoring original Māori geographic names recognises the historic and special relationship that Māori have with the land.

The Board Secretariat works closely with the Office of Treaty Settlements and claimant groups to ensure the best possible outcome.

In 2016/17, the Board considered 74 Treaty name proposals.

The Board gazetted 29 Treaty settlement geographic names, including Crown protected area names, through the following legislation:

  • Taranaki Iwi Claims Settlement Act 2016
  • Te Atiawa Claims Settlement Act 2016
  • Rangitāne o Manawatu Claims Settlement Act 2016
  • Hineuru Claims Settlement Act 2016
  • Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017.

The Board Secretariat also reviews Treaty settlement documents and provides advice on Treaty geographic names on behalf of the Board.


Providing easy access to trusted and useful geographic name information

The Board publishes all final decisions on geographic names in the New Zealand Gazette as conclusive evidence of the official geographic name. The decisions are then added to the Gazetteer, New Zealand’s authoritative digital database of geographic name information, which is publicly accessible online for use and reuse by government and New Zealanders generally.

In 2016/17, the Board notified 1187 official geographic names in the New Zealand Gazette (see table 2 below), which were then published in the Gazetteer (see maps 1 and 2 below for distribution).

The programme of work to ensure consistency between data fields and improve the completeness of name records in the Gazetteer continued in 2016/17. This work improves the authority, reliability, accuracy and completeness of the Gazetteer. The Board also identified enhancements that will make the user experience more intuitive and provide more location context. These will be implemented in 2017/18.

Table 2. Official geographic names notified in 2016/17 in the New Zealand Gazette
Board decision - Assigned, altered (no objections)6
Board decision - Approved recorded as official537*
Board decision - Antarctica583
Board decision - Undersea19
Minister's decision12
Treaty settlement legislation29
Department of Conservation's final decisions on Crown protected areas1

*Including 101 Undersea

Map 1. The distribution of gazetted official geographic names in 2016/17 (excluding proposals) in New Zealand and on the continental shelf

Map 2. The distribution of gazetted official geographic names in 2016/17 (excluding proposals) in Antarctica

Encouraging use of official geographic names

Last year, the Board encouraged the use of official geographic names by increasing the visibility of decisions and raising awareness that the Gazetteer is an authoritative repository of all official geographic names. The Board issued more media releases and advisories, and used additional channels such as the LINZ Facebook page, government consultations webpage, and Te Puni Kōkiri’s Rauika events and opportunities calendar.

Growing and maintaining relationships

The Board signed a Mahi Tahi agreement with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) in June 2017 and will be developing an action plan to record tangible progress.

The Board works with other countries for naming in areas of shared interest and in ensuring consistency with international practices. During 2016/17 the Board engaged with:

  • its Australian geographic name counterparts,
  • United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names to build understanding and share good practice,
  • Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names with proposals on New Zealand’s continental shelf,
  • United States Board on Geographic Names for name proposals and matters in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica, and
  • Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information for improvements to the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica.