So Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has officially recorded the names of our two main islands, Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu, or North Island and South Island.
But there’s a problem.
Even in the Minister’s own media statement – so I can’t totally hate our media for reporting it this way – the decision is described thus:
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson today announced the recorded English names of the two main islands of New Zealand, the North Island and South Island, will be formalised.
“I have also approved the Geographic Board recommendation to assign official alternative Maori names for the two islands, Te Ika-a-Māui (for the North Island) and Te Waipounamu (for the South Island).
Um, fuck you, Maurice, and fuck your racist colonial framing of this decision.
Sorry, jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Land Information New Zealand has to say about the alternative naming proposal:
The Board is seeking the public’s views on whether or not to formalise the names ‘North Island’ and ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, and ‘South Island’ and ‘Te Waipounamu’, for the two main islands of New Zealand.
This means that, if the proposals are agreed, the existing English names and the Māori names for the islands will be able to be used officially, either individually or together. This also means they can be referred to as the ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, or the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’ – or both names can be used together.
Spot the difference?
This issue has widely been discussed as though “North Island” and “South Island” have always been official – which they haven’t - and that the Māori names are “alternatives”. With the clear implication that they’re just an afterthought, a backup, a sop to the bleeding-heart liberals who probably aren’t even Māori anyway.
Both names are equally official and formalised, and have become so through this decision. Both names carry the same weight. Exactly as it should be.
But it’s not surprising we can’t discuss this properly. Elsewhere on LINZ’s FAQ you find this:
Everyone already knows the North and South Island names – why not just leave them as they are and forget about Māori names?
There is no legislation that formally assigns the names to the islands. The Board has a function to collect and encourage the use of original Māori place names.It should also be noted that both the English and Māori names for these islands appeared on early maps up to the 1950s, following which – for reasons we are unable to ascertain – the Māori names were omitted. In fact Captain Cook only showed Māori names (with different spelling) on his charts of New Zealand.
Yes. For “reasons we are unable to ascertain” indeed.
Related reading: my previous post on the issue