Wikipedia is right up with the play as the Geographic Board gives us new place names

Whoever does the updating at Wikipedia doesn’t bugger around.

Mrs Grumble – undertaking some research for Alf today – was astonished to find Wikipedia (see here) already knew about the New Zealand Geographic Board’s announcement that it would seek the public’s input before making official changes to the names of the North and South Island. The Wikipedia citation steered her to a TV3 report here.

One aspect of the news is that the North and South Islands – which have been called exactly that for as long as Alf can remember – are not official names.

So the Geographic Board is going about a process that will make them official, which looks suspiciously like an exercise in keeping bureaucrats in jobs.

The other aspect is that the two islands will be given Maori names, too.

Hence we are being given more geographical choices and before long the good people of Eketahuna North will be able to travel to the ‘South Island’ – or to ‘Te Waipounamu’.

The advantage of using the English version is that it requires us to utter three syllables, versus five for the more cumbersome Maori version.

After our trip we will return to the ‘North Island’ – or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’. Again, it’s much easier to use English.

In other words, we will be able to take the long way or the shorter way thanks to an agreement reached on Thursday by the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (see the board’s statement here).

The board now will proceed to publicly consult on proposals to formally assign official alternative names to New Zealand’s two main islands.

This means that either the English name or the Māori name, or both names together, could be used as official.

Why you would want to use both sets of words together has Alf flummoxed, but it seems to give lots of people a bit of buzz to say they come – for example – from Aotearoa New Zealand. The gooey Greens, for example.

As we can see above, the Geographic Board does the same thing when it calls itself the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa. This means its staff can’t get their names plus the board’s name on to one business card.

The board’s chair is a Dr Don Grant, and he says the agreement reached on Thursday follows the receipt of a proposal to change the name ‘South Island’ to its original Māori name ‘Te Waipounamu’ and to consider the original Māori name of the North Island at the same time.

“At that time we noted that the existing English names were recorded names, rather than official names. They appeared on LINZ’s maps, charts and other official publications but had never been formalised under the NZGB Act.

“The NZGB agreed in principle that the English names should be formalised, that – as a related pair – both islands should also be assigned Māori alternative names, and that all of the names should be formalised at the same time.”

The official statement goes on to say that, following consultation with iwi, the NZGB determined that the most appropriate Māori names for the islands are ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’ (for the North Island) and ‘Te Waipounamu’ (for the South Island).

This is interesting.

The board is not saying these are the correct Maori names. It is saying it did a whole lot of consulting, and presumably was given contradictory information before deciding on “the most appropriate” Maori names.

The statement goes on –

“The NZGB Act was amended in December 2012, and now provides for alternative naming. As such, the NZGB agreed at its latest meeting on 28 March 2013 to begin the process to formalise these names.

“This means that the two main islands of New Zealand could soon be referred to officially as the ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’ and the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’.”

Alf’s suspicions about whether the South Island has been given its right name or a best-guess name is supported by Wikipedia.

It says several Māori names have been used, but Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare sees Te Wai Pounamu as the most likely choice. This apparently means “the Water(s) of Greenstone”, which possibly evolved from Te Wāhi Pounamu “the Place Of Greenstone”, but –

The island is also known as Te Waka a Māui which means “Māui’s Canoe”. In Māori legend, the South Island existed first, as the boat of Maui, while the North Island was the fish that he caught.

It is also known as that to whom, exactly?

And how many Maori versions of North Island have been discarded?

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