Wanganui spelling change slammed

Last updated 13:15 30/03/2009

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Mayor Michael Laws says a move to add an "h" to the spelling of Wanganui would destroy the culture and history of the city.

Earlier today the New Zealand Geographic Board released its finding that Wanganui should have an "h".

In a statement, the board said the public would be given three months to make submissions on the proposed name change.

Te Runanga o Tupoho had submitted a proposal to the board to change the city's name to Whanganui, with Iwi spokesman Ken Mair saying the name was considered meaningless without the ''h".

Mr Laws today slammed the Board's decision.

''This is a direct attack upon our city and our citizens.''

Mr Laws said the decision was "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."

In a 2006 referendum, 18 percent of people voted for the ''h''.

However Geographic Board chairman Don Grant said there was a ''valid case'' to change the spelling.

''Wanganui, the name given to the town to reflect its position near the mouth of the Whanganui river, was spelt incorrectly and has never been formally gazetted by this Board or its predecessors.

''It is therefore not currently an official New Zealand place name.''

Dr Grant said the board had carefully considered the Wanganui District Council's views opposing the spelling change, and acknowledged that the name Wanganui had a long history of local usage.

However, he said early settlers "clearly intended the name of the city to be derived from the Maori name of the river, and consistent modern usage of the language showed the spelling should be Whanganui, not Wanganui."

Whanganui means great harbour or expanse of water and was named by Haunui, who came on the Aotea waka more than 600 years ago.

- with NZPA


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