Pick a name and get on with it

They're at it again.

Not content with setting off civil turmoil in our southern neighbour, Wanganui, the New Zealand Geographic Board now wants a bob each way on the names of the two largest lumps of real estate in New Zealand (or is that Aotearoa?)

The board chairman is suggesting that the North Island and South Island get new alternative names. The North Island might also be named Te Ika a Maui while the South Island could get the additional option of Te Wai Pounamu.

Sounds like a sensible idea, surely?

What could be better in a multicultural society than giving citizens the right to choose the name they use for the big bits that sit 2000km east of Aussie.

Well, actually, lots could be wrong with it, and Taranaki people know that better than most.

The same board that wants to fiddle with the names of the north and south islands came up with a formula for the volcano that is central to Taranaki's self-image.

No problems, it said, we'll give you the option: Mt Egmont or Mt Taranaki.

Except that it didn't work that way.

What actually happened was almost a decade of polite but serious civil strife over the usage.

We at the Taranaki Daily News know that. One editor decided to stick with the status quo (Captain Cook named it Mt Egmont after John Perceval, second Earl of Egmont).

Despite the fact that the editor's choice was based on a then common usage, Maori took offence.

Time moved on, some of the newspaper's readers moved on, and eventually, another editor bit the bullet and insisted that staff use Mt Taranaki as a general rule. And the name of the Crown-owned property surrounding the volcano remained Egmont National Park.

So, what does this mean for the board chairman's inclination to give people a choice over the islands' names?

If past experience is anything to go by, it means that Maori and the liberal end of the Pakeha constituency will not be satisfied until the old names are gone and the new ones used.

We make no arguments over which is the preferred option simply that the board would be more honest to pick a public fight over the issue and get on with it.

Surely the public deserves the right to have a say over a clear change, rather than one by stealth?

Taranaki Daily News