New Zealand should change its name to Aotearoa according to the country’s Māori party, which has launched a campaign to scrap its current “colonialist” name.
Te Pāti Māori call for the restoration of indigenous names in the country, including the names of towns and suburbs.
The party has launched a petition calling on the government to “identify and officially restore” the original place names by 2026.
“It has been a long time since Te Reo Māori has been restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country,” Māori party leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said in a statement at the launch of the petition.
They added: ‘New Zealand is a Dutch name. Even the Dutch have changed their name – from Holland to Holland, for God’s sake!’
Māori party leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer (pictured) have launched a petition to restore New Zealand’s place name to ‘Aotearoa’
‘We are a Polynesian country – we are Aotearoa.’
The petition urged the New Zealand government to do everything possible to “restore the status of our language.”
Tangata whenua are sick to death of our ancestral names being mutilated, corrupted and ignored. It’s the 21st century, this has to change.”
The name of New Zealand was given by Dutch cartographers in the 17th century.
Explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to visit the islands, and he initially called them Staten Land, assuming they were part of the islands spotted off the coast of South America by fellow explorer Jacob le Maire.
Hendrik Brouwer refuted this with his visit to Staten Land, now known as Isla de los Estados, in 1643.
Cartographers subsequently renamed the islands visited by Tasman as Nova Zeelandia, named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.
The name was later Anglicized to New Zealand.
It is not known if the Māori people had a name for the entire country beforehand, but Aotearoa, meaning land of the long white cloud, is the current name in the language and is believed to date from the 19th century.
The Māori party, which has two out of 120 MPs in parliament, also wants half of school classes to be taught in the language by 2030.
In the petition, New Zealand’s capital Wellington would be renamed Te Whanganiu-a-Tara, Christchurch would become Ōtautahi and Auckland would become Tāmaki Makaurau.
Mr Waititi (pictured) said the petition has already garnered 12,000 signatures since its launch on Tuesday
Mr. Waititi and Ms. Ngarewa-Packer said that native language fluency has fallen from 90 percent to 20 percent over the past 90 years.
‘It is the duty of the Crown to do everything possible to restore the status of our language. That means it should be accessible in the most obvious places; on our televisions, on our radio stations, on road signs, maps and official advertisements, and in our education system,” it added.
The name change was initially raised by the Māori Party in 2017, which launched its language policy and called on state broadcasters to master the basic language of Te Reo Māori.
Aotearoa is used interchangeably across the country with the terminology used by state officials, political leaders, and even some corporations — but there has been no official change.
Former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters criticized the name change as ‘radical leftist bull dust’ on Twitter (pictured)
Libertarian ACT party leader David Seymour said the name debate distracts from the real problems facing New Zealanders
Former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand leader Winston Peters has already rebuked the name change as “stupid extremism.”
“This is just more left-radical bull dust. Changing the name of our country and the names of cities is just stupid extremism,” Mr Peters continued Twitter.
“We will not turn into a name without historical credibility. We’re in favor of keeping our New Zealand.’
Meanwhile, Libertarian ACT party leader David Seymour said, “People are already free to use Māori place names.
“What the Māori party is saying is that it wants to ban people from calling our country New Zealand.
“It should focus on real problems, such as the 1.6 million people in Tāmaki Makaura in lockdown.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in September last year that an official name change for the nation “wasn’t something we explored,” but encouraged the use of Aotearoa as a “positive thing.”
“It’s not something we’ve explored, but I’ve been really encouraged to keep seeing people using it more often and I hope it’s used more internationally as well,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, Mr Waititi announced that the petition has already gathered 12,000 signatures from supporters.
The campaign comes 49 years after the Māori petition was first handed over to parliament in an effort that eventually led to Māori being recognized as an official dialect.