Judith Collins suggests referendum on name of New Zealand, despite using 'Aotearoa' while in Government

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
National leader Judith Collins has backed calls for a referendum on the name of New Zealand, saying Kiwis are getting “tetchy” about the word Aotearoa being used without consultation.

National leader Judith Collins has backed calls for a referendum on the name of New Zealand, saying Kiwis are getting “tetchy” about the word Aotearoa being used without consultation.

But press releases from National’s time in Government show the word being used frequently to mean New Zealand, including in the 2014 speech from the throne and by Collins herself when she was Ethnic Affairs Minister.

“Aotearoa” means “land of the long white cloud” in te reo and has a contested history as the widely used te reo name for New Zealand.

Collins was speaking to media after her MP Stuart Smith wrote a column saying that while he did not have a personal view on the use of Aotearoa, Kiwis should be consulted on the use of it by Government.

Judith Collins with National MP Stuart Smith (file photo).
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Judith Collins with National MP Stuart Smith (file photo).

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“It is presumptuous and disrespectful to make a decision of such cultural importance for the country without engaging all who live there,” Smith wrote.

Collins said she agreed with Smith and that people deserved to have a say on a matter of such importance.

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“People are starting to get, I think, quite tetchy about that, they’re feeling like they’re not being included in that debate.”

“The public has a right to vote on that.”

She pointed to large corporations and government departments using the term Aotearoa as evidence of its spread without consultation “by stealth”.

“Aotearoa” means “land of the long white cloud” in te reo and has a contested history as the widely used te reo name for New Zealand.
Nasa
“Aotearoa” means “land of the long white cloud” in te reo and has a contested history as the widely used te reo name for New Zealand.

“Government agencies are clearly changing the way in which they talk about New Zealand, and I just think a lot of people might say that’s a good thing ... the Prime Minister changes that way she is talking about, you barely hear her saying New Zealand,” Collins said.

“I’m just reflecting on what people are saying.”

Collins likened the situation to that of National’s flag referendum, saying large changes deserved to go to a vote.

“We had a referendum on a flag, which as you know we lost that referendum, but we did the right thing, which was to respect the views of the public.”

National ministers used the word Aotearoa frequently while last in Government.

Prime Minister John Key used the word in his speech from the throne in 2014, setting out the plans for the term of Government, and in a joint statement with the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands in 2015.

Other ministers such as Hekia Parata, Christopher Finlayson, Nikki Kaye, and Amy Adams also used the term in official press releases and speeches – and a new passport design launched by the National government in 2009 featured the word “Aotearoa” on the cover.

Collins herself launched the 2014 Race Relations Day as Ethnic Affairs Minister with the theme “I am Aotearoa/New Zealand, together we grow.”

In 2013 she launched Race Relations Day with the theme “My Dream For Aotearoa” saying in a video it was a “very important day for Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Labour MP Willie Jackson said Smith was being “stupid” with his call for a referendum.

ACT leader David Seymour said Kiwis were free to call the country what they wanted to and there were more important issues to focus on.