Could Aotearoa become this country's official name?

By Stefan Dimitrof

A leading Māori academic believes the discussion over changing New Zealand's name to Aotearoa shows the "maturing of a nation coming of age".

Last year Te Pāti Māori launched a petition to get the official name changed to Aotearoa, and also to have towns and cities renamed, to their original te reo Māori names.

But this week the petition got some unexpected attention  on a late-night TV show in the US, The Daily Show, presented by South African Trevor Noah.

Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland Māori studies senior lecturer and Unesco commissioner Dr Dan Hikuroa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui) said practices of finding new countries, "ostensively new, mapping them and naming them is an antiquated practice and it doesn’t hold any relevance at all for what and how we see ourselves in 2022".

Hesaid that in the past that the names New Zealand weren’t exclusive, with the South Island called Te Wai Pounamu and the North Island Aotearoa.

Hikuroa said that these days Aotearoa had become the other name for New Zealand as it was used everywhere. “I use Aotearoa New Zealand in my publishing of the research work I do, I use it together; I put a footnote there to say in modern usage Aotearoa has come to mean New Zealand”.