John Tamihere concedes changing New Zealand to Aotearoa 'might not' happen by 2026 but 'our aspirations to achieve it will never stop'

John Tamihere believes changing New Zealand's name to Aotearoa will be part of a "never-ending" Māori political movement but concedes it might not happen in six years.

The Māori Party announced a policy on Monday saying it would rename New Zealand to Aotearoa by 2026 if elected.

Party co-leader Tamihere said bilingualism is growing in New Zealand. He told Magic Talk host Peter Williams "all hell broke loose" when, for example, Mt Egmont was officially renamed as Mt Taranaki last year.

"But today - they don't remember it as Mt Egmont and yet, for 150 years, that's what it was called," he said on Tuesday morning.

"That policy that we announced - it wasn't just about looking at names changing - it was looking at normalising the use of bilingualism in a number of spheres."

Williams questioned why the name couldn't be 'Aotearoa New Zealand' for a start, before changing solely to Aotearoa. The radio host has previously called for 'Aotearoa' to be added to New Zealand's name.

"The Māori Party has put posts in the ground to say, 'hey, here's not just the aspirations of my people but here's where we'd like our nation's story to land'," Tamihere responded.

"Now, it might not happen in six years - but the point is that our aspirations to achieve it will never stop - it will be a never-ending part of a Māori political movement.

"As we advance as a nation, the thing that distinguishes a New Zealander from an Australian, a Canadian, an American [or] someone in the UK is our Māori culture because our babies when they go offshore now, it doesn't matter what colour they are or denomination they worship - they all can do a haka and they all can do a waiata."      

Williams agreed the name will be changed "in due course". He said "as us, baby boomers pop our clogs and move off this Earth", there's another generation coming through that's enthusiastic about the idea.

Tamihere said the fact many Kiwis can do a haka or waiata is New Zealand's point of difference.

"That is part of a growing bicultural mix that's unstoppable," he said.

John Tamihere.
John Tamihere. Photo credit: The AM Show

On Monday, Waiariki candidate Rawiri Waititi said the Māori Party's policy was a bold move towards making Te Reo a language for the whole country.

Waititi said the move would elevate Te Reo "to its rightful place".

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll had the Māori Party well below the 5 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament at 0.4 percent. However, Tamihere told Magic Talk "we're in with a shot".

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