A proposal from a member of the public in 2004 to rename the South Island to Te Wai Pounamu lead to our initial discussions on the names of the main islands of New Zealand. We declined that proposal, considering that the names of both islands should be assigned at the same time.
We researched the Māori and non-Māori names used over time for the 2 islands.
In 2009 our Chairperson, Dr Don Grant, announced our decision in principle that Māori names should be assigned as official alternative names alongside North Island and South Island, but the question was ‘which?’ We asked over 140 iwi for their views on which original Māori names would be the most appropriate to make official.
Our intention was to begin consulting on names in 2010, but our governing law, the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 required an amendment to provide for alternative official names. This process was completed in 2012.
In March 2013 having consulted with iwi across the country, we decided that the most appropriate Māori names for the islands were Te Ika-a-Māui (for the North Island) and Te Waipounamu (for the South Island) and invited public submissions on the proposals.
Over 3 months we received 2,608 submissions from 1,329 submitters.
Of the submissions, 1,842 supported one or more of the proposals and 766 opposed one or more. As we didn’t agree with any of the objections, the Minister for Land Information made the final decisions.
At the time, Dr Grant said “the numbers [of submissions for and against the names] were not the main consideration. The Board is guided more by the reasons provided by submitters for their support or objection. The Board carefully considered the supporting and opposing submissions, and this has informed its recommendations to the Minister [for Land Information].”
On 11 October 2013 the then Minister of Land Information, Hon Maurice Williamson, announced his decision that the unofficial English names North Island and South Island, would be made official alternative names along with Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu.
Hon. Williamson said that his decision to assign official alternative names would mean people can use whichever they prefer and would not have to use the English and Māori names together.
“Instead, everyone will have the choice to keep calling the islands what they always have, or use the alternatives, or use both together if they wish,” Hon. Mr Williamson said.
You can find the decision documents below.
|Official alternative geographic name||Geographic feature type||Description|
|North Island||Island||The northern of the two main islands of New Zealand, centred around NZTM 1865000E, 5674000N. Official alternative geographic name is Te Ika-a-Māui.|
|Te Ika-a-Māui||Island||The northern of the two main islands of New Zealand, centred around NZTM 1865000E, 5674000N. Official alternative geographic name is North Island.|
|South Island||Island||The southern of the two main islands of New Zealand, centred around NZTM 1446000E, 5177000N. Official alternative geographic name is Te Waipounamu.|
|Te Waipounamu||Island||The southern of the two main islands of New Zealand, centred around NZTM 1446000E, 5177000N. Official alternative geographic name is South Island.|