Poll: Should New Zealand be renamed Aotearoa?

  • 16/06/2020

Protests in the United States against police brutality has sparked a wider discussion globally about how countries memorialise historical figures and if indigenous cultures are given the respect they deserve. 

Last week, a statue of Captain John Hamilton was removed from Hamilton's Civic Square after a request from Waikato-Tainui. 

Protesters had threatened to damage the monument during a demonstration in the weekend. Capt Hamilton had been a key figure in the New Zealand Wars and the city was named after him.

That sparked a conversation about whether the city's name should be changed to Kirikiriroa, a debate Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said should be left to locals

Speaking on his Magic Talk show on Tuesday about calls for name changes around New Zealand, host Peter Williams brought up the "most vexed issue of all" - "New Zealand or Aotearoa?"

"How come that hasn't come up in the rush to deface history in the last few days. Shouldn't that be the first discussion we have?

"As many of you have pointed out on this show in the past, it's as if the name of the country is being changed by stealth anyway through our media. More and more primetime mass audience TV programmes regularly refer to New Zealand now just as Aotearoa.

"What started out as a sort of trendy or woke approach to presenting on TV has now become very, very commonplace."

Last year, a petition was presented to Parliament calling for a referendum on whether the official name of New Zealand should change to include the name Aotearoa. A select committee concluded that "at present we do not consider that a legal name change, or a referendum on the same change, is needed".

"While not legislated, the use of bilingual titles throughout Parliament and government agencies is common," the select committee said.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Ardern wouldn't commit to a legal change, but said it would likely be used organically as more Kiwis learned te reo Māori.

Williams said on Tuesday the move to be renamed as Aotearoa was "unstoppable".

Should New Zealand be renamed Aotearoa?