Wanganui District to have 'h' added to name - Government
The Wanganui District will become the Whanganui District, after the Government signed off on adding an 'h' to its name.
The Wanganui District Council had asked the New Zealand Geographic Board last year to change the district's name and add the 'h'.
Land Information Minister Louise Upston said she had agreed with the board's recommendation to change the name, following submissions from the council, local iwi and the public.
"This decision recognises that 'Wanganui' has no meaning in te reo Maori, and that 'Whanganui' has a number of traditions in Maori oral history.
"It will also ensure the district name is consistent with the official names of the river and town."
Upston said Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae had made an order in council to change the Wanganui council's name under the Local Government Act, which would allow the district's name to be changed.
The move to amend the district name had been supported by local and neighbouring iwi, she said.
"We all have a role to play in helping to protect the culture and heritage of New Zealand's communities.
"Ensuring place names are spelled correctly, so the stories behind them can be remembered and celebrated, is an important part of this."
Labour MP for Te Tai Hauauru, Adrian Rurawhe, said locals would be feeling "really elated" about the decision, following a "long, arduous battle" to change the district's name to reflect that of the Whanganui River.
"It's a symbol of the relationship between the iwi and the awa, the river, and also the land around it.
"There's a saying that 'I am the river and the river is me', so to get that right is critically important for the people."
Rurawhe said businesses in Whanganui had already been changing their names to add the 'h' as they changed their branding.
The Waitangi Tribunal weighed in on the long-running issue in October, in its report on Whanganui land claims.
In a letter to Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, inquiry presiding officer Judge Carrie Wainwright said the tribunal believed the Crown should overturn its recent decision to allow "Wanganui" as a legitimate spelling in addition to "Whanganui", as it had been established as a "simple misspelling".
"They are not equally legitimate. One is right and one is wrong."
The debate over the 'h' has raged for years, with Whanganui residents voting against a change in a 2006 referendum.
Supporters of a change said "Wanganui" was a misspelling that stripped meaning from the Maori name, while opponents said Wanganui had been the city's name for 150 years.
In 2008, the Government passed legislation allowing both Wanganui and Whanganui to be used for official geographic matters.