North and South/Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu

The New Zealand Geographic Board, Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB) is currently undertaking a consultation process to decide whether to formalise the names North Island and Te Ika-a-Māui (meaning the fish of Māui) and the South Island and Te Waipounamu (meaning greenstone waters). The names, if accepted, could be used individually or together. Our great Te Ara design team has done a mock up that shows what the names might look like together.

Renaming is often a tricky thing, with particularly contentious name changes in the past being Taranaki/Mt Egmont and more recently Wanganui/Whanganui. However, the recent announcement sparked less outrage than parody, largely on Twitter.

A large number of alternate suggestions for the North and South islands have appeared, which largely play on Kiwi culture, and my favourites are:

I’ve previously talked about historical names for the North and South islands on this blog. Additionally, the NZGB has noted other historical names, both Māori and English, for the North and South Islands in its useful FAQ.

I suspect that when the board makes its final recommendation, followed by a decision from the Minister for Land Information, that it will pass through with a minimum of fuss, save a brief reinvigoration of the hunt to find better alternate names on the #NZislands hashtag.

One comment added so far

  1. Comment made by malcolm mckinnon || May 8th, 2013

    It’s interesting, as the Geographic Board has indeed noted that the two preferred Māori names have a Pākehā history as well. They appear (if Cook’s ‘Aeheinomouwe’ is considered a rendering of Te Ika-a-Māui, though the Board is sceptical about that)on the first maps of the islands. And they featured, in prominent placement, on Department of Lands and Survey maps which depicted the whole of one or other island, in the 1890s and 1900s. The Board says it ‘doesn’t know’ why the names disappeared off official maps from the 1950s but while the names were used through the 19th century the prominence with which they feature at the turn of the century is distinctive and may relate to the more general official enthusiasm for Māori place names at that time.

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