The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB) cooperates with a range of international naming organisations on Antarctic, regional and global place naming and conventions.
All countries have the right to name places and features in their territories, in line with their own policies and guidelines. Globally, approaches to naming have differed but the international community of naming authorities is working collaboratively to maintain agreed standards for geographic names. The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB) is involved with the work of a number of international bodies seeking to achieve greater consistency worldwide.
United Nations Group of Experts on Geographic Names
Because of constant uncertainty worldwide about the spelling of place names, the United Nations established an international group in 1967; the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographic Names (UNGEGN) to study issues affecting the standardisation of geographic names. UNGEGN has since published a manual promoting standards for naming.
The NZGB represents New Zealand’s interests at UNGEGN’s five yearly conferences. The aims of UNGEGN are to:
- promote national and international standardisation of geographic names
- study the problems of areas where more than one language is spoken
- devise and agree on Romanisation script systems
- exchange experiences and the results of geographic name standardisation
- encourage the creation of standardising agencies
- ensure that standardised names are used on maps, and in gazetteers and other publications
- encourage the production of gazetteers and lists of names
- promote international exchange of technologies relevant to geographic names
- encourage the organisation of training courses
- encourage indigenous names
The Permanent Committee on Place Names
The Permanent Committee on Place Names (PCPN) is part of Australia and New Zealand’s Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM). PCPN aims to coordinate and communicate the consistent use of place names to make sure they meet the requirements of the whole community including government bodies, emergency services and indigenous people.
The NZGB’s Secretary is a member of PCPN, which also includes members from federal, state, territory and defence/navy authorities in Australia. PCPN provides an opportunity for the NZGB to effectively share and obtain information and knowledge relevant to its own operations.
Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names
The Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) is a committee under an international body, the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). SCUFN establishes naming guidelines and selects undersea feature names, and encourages their use on GEBCO products such as charts and maps.
Once the NZGB has made official an undersea name outside of New Zealand’s territorial seas (12 nautical miles from the coastline), it submits it to SCUFN for consideration and inclusion in the SCUFN Gazetteer.
In keeping with the guidelines in SCUFN’s Standardisation of Undersea Feature Names the NZGB has produced the Protocol for Undersea Feature Naming which encourages national naming authorities to consult with the NZGB for any undersea feature names proposed in the NZGB’s naming area.
United States Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names
The United States names features over the whole of Antarctica. Because this overlaps with New Zealand’s area of interest for naming features in the Ross Sea Region, the NZGB and the United States Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN), which is a committee that advises the United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN), liaise with each other.
The NZGB also liaises with any other nations operating or naming features within New Zealand’s area of interest, for example: Italy, UK Antarctic Place Names Committee and the Australian Antarctic Division.
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) advises on scientific matters relating to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which New Zealand is a signatory of. SCAR’s Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information (SC-AGI) is responsible for collating geographic names in Antarctica and producing a Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica (CGA). All countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty and who name features in Antarctica contribute to the CGA. The NZGB’s Secretary is a member of SC-AGI.