NZ's oldest newspaper adds key letter for Māori Language Week

There has been mixed reaction in Whanganui today after the local newspaper added an 'H' to its name, to reflect Māori spelling.

"A guy rung up this morning and said he was cancelling his subscription," says Whanganui Chronicle editor Mark Dawson. "He was appalled."

After 162 years, the country's oldest newspaper changed its name on Monday in time for Māori Language Week.

The question of whether an 'H' belongs in Whanganui has divided the district for decades, but Mr Dawson says the spelling change had nothing to do with readers' opinions.

"Our decision isn't about popularity, it's about what we feel is the right decision to make."

It brings the Chronicle in line with Government agencies, which added the 'H' after the district officially adopted the Māori spelling in 2015.

That official change followed years of controversy - most notably between opponents like former mayor Michael Laws and 'H' advocates like Ken Muir.

"It's the right decision in the context of the Chronicle understanding and respecting our name," Mr Muir says of the newspaper's decision. "It's as simple as that."

But the official spelling doesn't make for universal pronunciation - local Māori don't emphasise the 'H'. Nor does it make for universal signage, as it's up to businesses' discretion whether they add the new letter.

Mayor Hamish McDouall is confident progress will continue.

"I've noticed quite a significant change, even in the last three years - more entities put 'H'."