Right an old wrong, put 'h' in Wanganui

The New Zealand Geographic Board has dropped its very own H-bomb on Wanganui, saying the name of the town should be "Whanganui", as was originally intended.

With the ordnance in flight and whistling towards impact, Wanganui mayor Michael Laws is rallying his troops and vowing to fight the marauding moniker maniacs invading his cosy little status quo.

"This is a direct attack upon our city and our citizens," Mr Laws declared, slamming the decision as "morally and historically wrong, and will be resisted with all effort and endeavour by the Wanganui District Council and the vast majority of the citizens of Wanganui".

"It is an attack upon the integrity of my city, my district and my constituents. It is an affront to democracy and every concept of equity."

Talk about a mushroom cloud in a teacup.

New Zealand Geographic Board chairperson Don Grant said Wanganui was spelt incorrectly and had never been formally gazetted by the board or its predecessors.

Dr Grant said early settlers clearly intended the name of the city to be derived from the Maori name of the river Whanganui. Local iwi Te Runanga o Tupoho had submitted a proposal to the board to change the city's name to Whanganui, saying the name was considered meaningless without the "h".

"Wanganui" has been in common usage for more than 150 years, but Dr Grant said yesterday's decision was about correcting that mistake.

Mr Laws points to a 2006 referendum that found 82 per cent of residents opposed changing the city's name, and is considering holding another poll to gauge the level of support.

No doubt that would show a similar level of opposition, and bolster Mr Laws' claim that the Geographic Board's decision is "an affront to democracy".

But democracy is not a vehicle for an intransigent majority to steamroll the demonstrably legitimate views of a minority. Clearly, Mr Laws is deeply passionate about whether the name of his city has eight letters or nine, but the Geographic Board seems to know quite a lot about place names and their history.

We should never be adverse to righting a wrong, and the leading authority in this particular case seems adamant the common usage of Wanganui is incorrect. Adding the "h" it should have always had hardly seems like something to wage a war over.The way Palmerston North and Manawatu embraced the Highlanders' Super 14 match at the weekend was fantastic. It was great to see the city buzzing and people getting behind the novel concept of a "home" game played somewhere else. Hopefully that support continues through to the Turbos' season, especially if they give us something to cheer about.

Manawatu Standard