To h or not to h

Alf is keeping an eye out for news from the New Zealand Geographic Board, a curiously composed outfit that will decide today whether Wanganui should have the letter “h” added to its name.

More important, he is keen to learn whether fewer than 10 people can over-rule the preference (no “h”) of the vast majority of the people of the city.

By the end of the day, there’s a fair chance we will be hearing one of those wonderful bursts of utter outrage from Mayor Laws. Maybe a tantrum, too.

As Stuff reports today:

The spelling of the city’s name has long been subject to controversy and iwi group Te Runanga o Tupoho recently applied to change the name to Whanganui.

Mayor Michael Laws said the argument should have been resolved in 2006 when a referendum was held with 82 percent voting for Wanganui’s name to remain as it has been for 170 years.

The New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa has a four-page protocol for Maori place names.

The protocol tells us that, as a consequence of the Ngäi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998, “the board is now required, in terms of an additional statutory function, to encourage the use of original Mäori place names on official maps, including maps published by or under the direction or control of the Surveyor-General.”

The protocol was developed to assist it in this function, and to encourage Mäori participation in achieving this objective.

It provides for a process of consultation “with appropriate Mäori.”

Here’s a fascinating bit of its contents:

The Protocol does not change statutory rights of the public in the consideration of a place name by the Geographic Board. Rather, it provides an opportunity for Mäori to be advised in advance of other non-Mäori New Zealanders, in recognition of their tangata whenua status over the land, and to have more time to gather information, consult and prepare a response to proposed name changes.

In other words, we Kiwis are all equal, but some are more equal than others.

In the case of Wanganui, Maori who are battling for the “h” are more equal than the city’s great majority.

General functions of the board include:

* To collect original Mäori place names for recording on official maps:

* To encourage the use of original Mäori place names on official maps, including maps published by or under the direction or control of the Surveyor-General.

Under its legislated powers, the Board says it has established, and applies, the following policies and principles relating to Mäori names:

i) Original names to be given preference:

a) An original name, where suitable, should be given preference.

b) Where the original name has been changed by publication or by local usage the original name should be restored in the correct form.

c) Where the choice lies between two or more names each sanctioned by local usage, the name that is most appropriate and euphonious should be adopted.

ii) Retention of incorrect names:

a) Where an incorrect name has become established by local usage over a long period of time, the Board may at its discretion retain the incorrect name.

b) When an incorrect Mäori name is accepted, the correct version and the component parts of compound Mäori names, if known (to assist in pronunciation), are to be noted in the remarks column of the relevant Gazette Notice.

iii) Recording of Mäori Names:

a) As a general rule Mäori place names should be written either as one word, or as separate words, as established by usage. The Board will also consider shortening lengthy names for publication where this is thought advisable.

iv) Pronunciation of Mäori names:
a) Although it is not a function of the Board to educate people on how to pronounce Mäori names (to ensure correct pronunciation), the Board will fully support any action taken to ensure the correct pronunciation is used.

b) Full and correct spelling of the place names should be used, but where abbreviated forms are sought, approval by the Board must be obtained.

v) Other conventions:

a) Macrons are to be used for the publication of approved names. Double vowels are also acceptable.

b) ‘Ngä’ should always be joined to the following name.

c) ‘Te’ should be written wherever possible without the capital.

d) Tribal names, ‘Ngä’, ‘Ngäi’, ‘Ngäti’ should be followed by captitalised proper names.

e) Hyphens should not to be used, and the possessive apostrophe should be avoided.

There’s one helluva consultation and appeals process to be followed by the board, let it be said. Alf won’t tire you with all the details here – you can check ‘em out for yourself.

But in some circumstances, a final decision is left to the Minister for Land Information.

He’ll be hoping he doesn’t get dragged into the “h” brouhaha.

Oh, and here’s something we all need to know:

No person shall publish or cause to be published in any geographic or scientific manuscript or publication, or in any guide book, handbook, pamphlet, road map, or other publication intended for the use of travellers or tourists generally, or on any map in any such manuscript or publication as aforesaid, any name purporting to be the name of any place, locality, or natural feature in New Zealand to which any provision of this Act applies, unless the name appears on a map previously published by or under the direction or control of the Surveyor-General, or is a name assigned to or approved for that place, locality, or natural feature pursuant to this Act.

Get that?

More important, do you understand it?

One Response to To h or not to h

  1. […] as Alf has noted, some members of the public carry more weight than other members of the public under the […]

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