Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 11:44 UK

Confusion over NZ islands' names


New Zealanders are to be asked what they would like to call their two main islands, currently North and South.

The country's Geographic Board, which assigns and approves place name changes, has announced consultations on alternative English and Maori names.

The move follows the discovery that the geographically correct names, used for 200 years, were not legally registered.

The discovery was made by board researchers investigating Maori names for the two islands.

The Geographic Board wants to allow English or Maori names to be used in the future, but this aim is complicated by the fact that competing Maori words exist for each island.

They include Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui) for the North Island and Te Wai Pounamu (the waters of greenstone) for the South Island.

Maui was a mythological Maori demi-god who is said to have caught the fish-shaped North Island while out in his brother's canoe, the South Island.

Maori names appeared on early maps of New Zealand including charts by Captain James Cook, the British explorer and map-maker who claimed the territory for Britain.

"This is part of our country's history of European exploration and settlement. It was only from the 1950s that Maori names stopped appearing on official maps," said board chairman Dr Don Grant.

A selection of your comments:

How about "Not Australia" and "Still Not Australia"?
Kevin, Austin, Texas

They should be called: "South Island - the best Island" and "North (not as good as the south) Island"
Alice, Rugby, UK, from New Zealand

Why can't we just continue to call them North and South and legally register them? It doesn't matter what you call them: people will continue to refer to them by their existing names. Mt Egmont is a classic example. Surely we have better things to worry about as a nation, like winning the 2011 rugby world cup.....
Scott Aitken, Hamilton, New Zealand

I am a Kiwi now living in Australia. Given the climate change and other more pressing issues facing New Zealand and other countries, concerning ourselves with the names of the islands is a complete waste of time. If "North" and "South" Islands haven't been registered as proper names in the registry, just do it now and let's get on with finding some answers to real problems. For a country, which produced people like Lord Rutherford and Edmund Hillary, we should know better than to get side-tracked by form over substance. Let's get our priorities right.
Bruce Sivalingam, Perth, Western Australia

I am a New Zealander and I couldn't care less what the islands are called. They have always been the North Island and the South Island in my lifetime, and they always will be. Like Mount Egmont and Mount Cook. I have absolutely no issue with places to have official Maori names and English names, but I'm fairly sure most Kiwis will continue to use the English names in this instance.
Jacq, Letchworth, England

Register the names every one is used to and will continue to use: North & South Island. Another ridiculously pointless debate from New Zealand, with the last one being 'We should change our national flag - let's make it all black with a Kiwi in the middle. Even if they get changed, no one is actually going to call them by the new names, so why bother.
Matt, Auckland, New Zealand

Why not "North Island" and "South Island" in Maori?
Ryan Jorgensen, Auckland, Nz

I have heard strong support for NW Christchurch and for SW Auckland
Sven Grammersdorf, Wellington, North Island

Why not pick names from Middle Earth to get the tourist numbers back up?

Gondor and Mordor? Wellington should be changed to Hobbiton, Auckland Rivendell. The English names are ugly anyway.
Stephen McPhillips, Denmark, from New Zealand

I would call them the 51st and the 52nd State of the USA
Bob, Auckland

No-one refers to the islands by their names. It is never "North Island" or "South Island', but always "the north island" and "the south island". In other words, by popular usage, the islands do not have names as such. While this will probably prevail, I think we have a golden opportunity here to officially designate the Maori names for the islands. And while we are about it, let's also get rid of the absurd name for the country. Again, the Maori name, Aotearoa, is much more meaningful and attractive. After that, we can hopefully ditch our embarrassing colonial flag.
Allen Gray, Oamaru, New Zealand

The whole issue of name changing has been trumped up by the New Zealand media. The names North Island, referring to the Northern Island and the South Island, referring to the southern Island, has worked well for the past one hundred years. Changing them will only cause confusion and this will also lose New Zealand business money. New Zealand has gone far too politically correct: this is another way of highlighting this fact, changing these names to Maori will serve no purpose as only a few hundred thousand people worldwide speak this language.
Benedict Xu-Holland, Wellington, New Zealand

North and South are a bit bland. Perhaps we could call the north "Jafaland", standing for "just another flamin' Aucklander" and the South "One-eye Country", because they're blind in the other. Or maybe "Dairy" and "Sheep" Islands respectively, to denote the main population. If we're going Maori, maybe "Ika" (fish) and "Waka" (canoe). Then one can say the other smells like fish, to which they can reply "go paddle it". Point being, no matter what they're called, the already-ingrained attitudes between one and the other are not going to change.
Bruce Bisset, Hastings

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