Asia - Pacific

‘Aotearoa’: Calls for New Zealand to change its name

Maori party accuses crown of ‘successfully stripping New Zealanders of our language,' with an impact still felt today

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 09.08.2022 - Update : 09.08.2022
‘Aotearoa’: Calls for New Zealand to change its name


In a bid to restore the country’s indigenous name, a New Zealand political party is calling on parliament to change the country’s name to Aotearoa. 

The party has also called for officially restoring the Indigenous Te Reo Maori names to all towns and cities. The Maori are the Indigenous peoples living on main island of New Zealand, and Te Reo is their language.

“It’s well past time that Te Reo Maori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country. We are a Polynesian country – we are Aotearoa,” said a petition launched by Te Paati Maori party.

Aotearoa is the current Maori-language name for New Zealand.

“Name changes … and the imposition of a colonial agenda in the education system in the early 1900s meant that Te Reo Maori fluency among our tupuna (ancestors) went from 90% in 1910 to 26% in 1950,” the petition said.

It accused the British Crown of “successfully” stripping Indigenous New Zealanders of their language, adding: “We are still feeling the impacts of this today.”

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy because of its past as a colony of Britain, with Queen Elizabeth II as the current crown holder.

“It’s totally unacceptable that 20% of the Maori population and 3% of people living in Aotearoa can speak Te Reo Maori,” it said.

The petition calls on parliament to change New Zealand’s name to Aotearoa and begin a process, alongside local government and the New Zealand Geographic Board, “to identify and officially restore the original Te Reo Maori names for all towns, cities and places right across the country by 2026.”

Urging the crown “to do all that it can to restore the status of our language,” the party said the country’s Indigenous people “are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardized, and ignored. It’s the 21st Century, this must change.”

The Maori party first entered the New Zealand parliament in 2004 and has two seats out of 120 in the unicameral legislature.

The Maori Party believes it is “born of the dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua (native people) to achieve mana motuhake (self-determination) within their own land; to speak with a strong, independent and united voice; and to live according to kaupapa (principles) handed down by our ancestors.”

“Indigenous solutions can help unlock the wellbeing of our whanau, and our nation. Our policies and practices are derived from kaupapa and aim to provide for the wellbeing of all, recognizing that we must improve the outcomes of whanau Maori if we are to be a truly diverse, happy and well nation,” the party says.

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