James Shaw backs changing New Zealand's name to Aotearoa

Te Pāti Māori's campaign to officially change New Zealand's name to Aotearoa has the personal backing of Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, the co-leaders of Te Pāti Māori, launched a petition last year calling for the change. After garnering 70,000 signatures, the petition was handed over in June.  

This week, the Māori Affairs Select Committee accepted the petition and will debate it. 

Greens co-leader Shaw said while they had not yet discussed it as a party, he was personally in favour of the change.

"I think that it would be good to have a name that is indigenous to Aotearoa, to our country - to New Zealand," he told AM Early.

He added Aotearoa "should be proud of who we are and where we're located".

The Māori Party was also pushing for all place names to be restored to their original Māori names by 2026.

"Aotearoa is on our passports, in our nation's anthem, it's te reo Māori and reflects a Pacific national with tangata whenua," Ngarewa Packer told Te Ao Māori News this week.

"It's exciting times and we must be strong in our identity as a united tiriti-centric nation."

Earlier this year, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said changing the name should be a decision for the New Zealand people. He said if there was widespread consensus, "it should go to referendum and it should be a decision that they get to make".

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said in June changing New Zealand's name wasn't something Labour's caucus had talked about.

ACT Party leader David Seymour, meanwhile, said last year he wasn't a fan of a referendum on the matter. 

"Personally, I say New Zealand," he said. "I'm not interested in going out and policing what other people say and I know a lot of young people out there who say, look, 'You can call it Timbuktu if you like, so long as I can afford a house there.'

"I just think there are some bigger issues for most people."

'Aotearoa' has been on the cover of New Zealand passports since 2009 when National was in Government. Bank notes also feature 'Aotearoa', since former Prime Minister Sir John Key unveiled them in 2015.