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Māori Party Launches Official Bid to Change the Name of New Zealand

‘Tangata whenua (people of the land) are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored.’

Credit: etnobofin / Flickr

The Māori Party (Te Pāti Māori) wants the country to be called Aotearoa, which was the Māori word for the landmass after European settlers colonized it. Nu Tirani has also been used for the country.

There’s no official translation for Aotearoa, however one interpretation in English is ‘the land of the long white cloud’.

Dutch cartographers coined the name New Zealand in the 17th century, as it referred to the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands.

The Māori Party went into last year’s federal election with a mandate to officially change the country’s name within five years if they won power.

Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party eventually won in a landslide, however the Māori Party ended up securing two seats out of 120 MPs.

The Maori Party have also launched a petition which has raised 40,000 signatures in the 36 hours since its launch.

A statement from Te Pāti Māori’s website reads: ‘This petition calls on Parliament to change New Zealand to Aotearoa and begin a process, alongside whānau (extended family), hapū (the basic political unit within Māori society) and iwi (tribe), local government and the New Zealand Geographic Board to identify and officially restore the original Te Reo Māori (Māori language) names for all towns, cities, and places right across the country by 2026.”

“Tangata whenua (people of the land) are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored.’

“It’s the 21st Century, this must change.’

“It is the duty of the Crown to do all that it can to restore the status of our language. That means it needs to be accessible in the most obvious of places; on our televisions, on our radio stations, on road signs, maps and official advertising, and in our education system.”

The political party has been disheartened to see the Māori language fall dramatically in the country’s education system and they want the kids of tomorrow to be bilingual.

Party leader Rawiri Waititi explained how changing the name of the country would ‘unify our country rather than divide it’.

Opposition Has Been Mixed

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has yet to comment on the campaign, but said last year that an official name-change, was “not something we’ve explored,” but that she supported more people using the name. “I hear more and more often the use of Aotearoa interchangeably with New Zealand and that is a positive thing,” she said.

“Whether or not we change it in law I don’t think changes the fact New Zealanders do increasingly refer to Aotearoa, and I think that’s a transition that has been welcomed.”

However, it doesn’t look like it has the support of the former Deputy Prime Minister.

Despite Winston Peters having Māori heritage, he reckons the petitions amounts to ‘dumb extremism’ and said it was ‘just more left-wing radical bull dust’.

There has already been a movement of people, companies and officials calling the country Aotearoa and New Zealand interchangably, but it is unsure if an official and lawful name change will be possible.

“I acknowledge the people who laid down that challenge,” Te Pāti Māori leader, Rawiri Waititi said. “In 2021, we continue to take up the challenge and continue to push further, to ensure that the mahi, the work that they have done, is not lost to the history books of time, but is continued to ensure that we are creating a better Aotearoa for our mokopuna, for the next generation to come.”

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