Should New Zealand also be called Aotearoa?

Comment from PartisanZ:

‘Should New Zealand also be called Aotearoa? Petition launched to add to country’s official name’ -NZHerald

“The Facebook post has received controversial comments, including how the referendum requested is similar to the flag change … Another questioned is if the petition was made to cause racial division.”

There’s definitely a showing on the FaceBook page from ‘The Right Brigade’ but the Herald overplays controversial and ascerbic comments in a classic piece of journalistic polarization.

Of course it should be called Aotearoa New Zealand …

Or should it be called Aotearoa instead of New Zealand?

What does decolonisation of Aotearoa mean?

I’ve started to see mentions of ‘decolonisation’ over the last few months, a new term to me. Some comments associated with it have made me wonder what it’s about. What is it?

Decolonization (Wikipedia):

Decolonization (American English) or decolonisation (British English) is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination over one or more other territories.

The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. However, decolonization not only includes the complete “removal of the domination of non-indigenous forces” within the geographical space and different institutions of the colonized, but it also includes the intellectual decolonization from the colonizers’ ideas that made the colonized feel inferior.

The “complete removal of the domination of non-indigenous forces” sounds like fairly major, albeit vague, change.

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer but to allow a process of self-determination,[5] but in practice decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by pro-independence groups. It may be intramural or involve the intervention of foreign powers acting individually or through international bodies such as the United Nations.

Decolonization of Oceania

The decolonization of Oceania occurred after World War II when nations in Oceania achieved independence by transitioning from European colonial rule to full independence.

New ZealandSamoa (1962)

That refers to New Zealand as a colonial power rather than a colonised country.

British Empire:

The Balfour Declaration of 1926 declared the British Empire dominions as equals, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster established full legislative independence for them. The equal dominions were six– Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa. However, some of the Dominions were already independent de facto, and even de jure and recognized as such by the international community.

1931 – The Statute of Westminster grants virtually full independence to Canada, the Irish Free State, and the Union of South Africa when it declares the British parliament incapable of passing law over these former colonies without their own consent. This doesn’t take effect over New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the Commonwealth of Australia, until independently ratified by these dominions.

1947 – New Zealand ratifies the Statute of Westminster 1931.

1986 – Australia and New Zealand became fully independent with the Australia Act 1986 and the Constitution Act 1986.

So New Zealand is ‘fully independent” of the colonial power the United Kingdom, despite still being a Monarchy with the Queen of England as a head of state – albeit symbolic rather than wielding any power.

What about recent talk of decolonisation here?

Massey University:  What we can teach the world about decolonisation

This was one of the learnings for Massey PhD candidate Jodi Porter, Ngāi Tai, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou who recently attended an international summer school that focused on decolonising knowledge and power at the University Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain.

Ms Porter says while it was great to be exposed to global schools of thought and leading academics from a range of cultures, it made her realise how far Māori have come in their journey to becoming more self-determining. “As Māori, we’re really quite advanced in terms of what we’re doing across a whole range of levels and sectors. Things such as our growing Māori economy and developments in education through kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and whare wānanga are just some of the examples of how we as Māori are actively working towards a decolonial agenda.”

Ms Porter however acknowledges there is still much more to be done. “I think there are significant strategic shifts we can make to allow us to actively participate on the global stage, whilst still being authentic to our Māori ways of being and knowing.

Our unique Māori identity is most definitely our greatest asset. At present, for many of our iwi, the tribal governance structures that we have colonially inherited through government legislation are dominating the way we do things. We really need to challenge the role these entities play in advancing our tribal agendas, because we can see that our iwi have become so corporatised.”

Ms Porter says she was fortunate to attend the summer school alongside another Māori delegate, Dr Jennifer Martin, Te Rarawa, who is currently a lecturer at the University of Auckland. As indigenous academics trying to contribute to discussions that were primarily focused on the global North, the pair felt that the New Zealand and wider Pacific context was very different to the colonised realities of other cultures throughout the world.

“At the end of the day Māori are actually doing things, rather than talking or theorising about change. We are actually living and breathing it by being self-determining.”

John Moore: The politics of anti-racism and decolonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2017

Those who argue that Maori oppression is primarily a result of the pakeha colonisation of New Zealand, argue that “decolonialisation” is the way forward for Maori. Such a position has been articulated by Kassie Hartendorp, who spoke at the launch of new left think tank Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA). Hartendorp equates capitalism in this country with colonisation, and argues that Maori as a whole face a shared position in relation to “colonial” capitalism in Aotearoa New Zealand:

I don’t think if indigenous people were given a space to be able to think about what system would work for them, I don’t think that would look like capitalism… Capitalism as a social relation is not one that upholds mana, it is not one that upholds true connections, it is not one that upholds manaakitanga. The exploitation of surplus value is not on the basis of manaakitanga. That to me is not compatible in any sense… indigenous people did not come up with capitalism, and yet we are the people who bear the brunt of capitalism and colonization most of the time. And that capitalism has been a huge colonizing project, and still is to this very day.”

That is arguing that decolonialisation means somehow undoing capitalism – does that mean socialism? I don’t think that Aotearoa was a socialist society pre-colonisation. It had a number of tribal hereditary class based systems.

Our society is not simple, and there is not a clear delineation  between Māori and non-Māori.

Rather than Maori being a homogenous socio-cultural group, Maoridom is in fact made up of peoples with various worldviews, lived experiences, and in various positions of either relative privilege or positions of oppression within society. Reducing all Maori lived reality down to the single factor of being a colonised people, within a colonial capitalist system, fails to account for the growing divisions that exist within Maoridom itself.

I expect that decolonialisation may mean different things to different people who have Māori heritage.

Most people with Māori heritage will also have coloniser (United Kingdom) heritage. Does that create a conflict? Or can they choose the heritage that gives them the best advantages at any given time?

New Zealand now has a new Maori elite that wields significant economic and political power.

Using capitalism.

Maori academic Evan Poata-Smith argues that there is now an increasing income gap within Maoridom itself. His analysis brings into question the very direction of Maori social and economic development over the last few years. He asks the question of which Maori are benefiting from current ideas of Maori development, and which Maori are becoming further disenfranchised and marginalised. Clearly Poata-Smith’s critique is a damning indictment on Treaty politics, which has benefited only a few and left the majority of Maori economically disenfranchised and politically marginalised.

Dealing with treaty claims was supposed to be a form of decolonialisation, but while it may have addressed some things, and at least partially righted some wrongs, it has created different problems.

So, if anti-colonial politics and the politics of indigeneity has failed to benefit the majority of Maori, and has only enriched and empowered an elite of Maoridom, then what is the way forward? The answer lies in a rejection of the obsession with difference and with culture that has dominated leftwing and Maori political discourse over the last few decades, and the need for a leftwing renaissance that focuses instead on radical egalitarian and emancipatory politics.

That final paragraph takes a bit of getting your head around.

Another issue is a possible conflict between somehow returning to pre-colonial Māori power structures and equality – both gender and class. Pre-European Māori had a class system, including a slave class. No one will be advocating a return to this.

And what about moves towards gender equality?

Jessica Hutchings: Decolonisation and Aotearoa – a pathway to right livelihood

What I wish to share within this essay are some of my thoughts on decolonisation and why I believe it must be an essential part of unfolding learning societies. I focus specifically on decolonisation as it relates to Maori women, because I feel though we are of one cultural tradition, Maori women and Maori men have very different experiences and realities.

Colonisation has played a significant role in terms of shifts and changes in the status of Maori women. Pakeha men brought their own gender/race/class notions in regard to Maori women, and we experience/d the imposition of Pakeha worldviews that operated heavily within colonial notions. It is therefore important to look at how independence and sovereignty discourses among Maori, including decolonisation, have been informed by a distinctly colonial patriarchal hegemony.

As a Maori woman, I must assess whether these discourses are representative of a particular political vision, in which women feature only as “a metaphor for the [independent] state and therefore become the scaffolding upon which men construct national identity.”

To allow for a more just, inclusive and sustainable future, I profoundly believe that all aspects of our cultural reclamation should be critiqued. I see gender is a fundamental aspect to this critique. I feel that such critical insights into the concerns of Maori women will be valuable in understanding how decolonisation should manifest in learning societies.

Decolonisation can’t mean going back to how things were pre-colonisation, that is impossible. So it must mean a reassessment of many things in relation to power, money, race and gender.

I believe decolonisation is opening the minds of many Maori and non-Maori in understanding both a truer history of this country and generating new tools to create a more meaningful process of reflection and dialogue.

For non-Maori people, part of participating in decolonisation processes is about recognising their role as belonging to the dominant colonial grouping.

I have no idea what this means.

From my experience as a Maori woman attending decolonisation programs, and carrying out reading in this area,  it was a wake-up call of just how colonised I had become with regard to my culture and way of living. For example, I had become alienated from the Maori language and needed to re-learn the language.

Decolonisation is also about my right to determine how I will live with and within Maori communities; to reject non-Maori analysis of situations and events that concern me; and to value myself as a Maori woman. Decolonisation is an essential part of being a Maori woman; it recognises the colonial reality we still live in and provides space for Maori women to be visible, by valuing Maori women’s on-going analysis of all areas of life, such as education, language and health systems.

On ‘Decolonizing Our Lives as Maori’:

Within New Zealand, colonisation is alive and flourishing. It has embarked on a greater journey of alienating the Maori peoples from their lands, practices and fundamental freedoms, now with new and more powerful tools of oppression. Maori sovereignty activist Moana Jackson draws an analogy between the processes of colonisation and of film-making:

“Colonisation is about creating a suspension of disbelief, which requires that those from whom power is to be taken have to suspend their own faith, their own worth, their own goodness, their own sense of value, and their own sense of knowledge. Today, colonisation is a process of image-making, where we’re bombarded by Hollywood about what should be worthy in our lives, and today’s scriptwriters, today’s controllers of knowledge [and therefore research] are the descendants of the old scriptwriters of colonisation.”

The proliferation of base illustrations of Maori is one example of this colonial image-making. Maori are only portrayed in the media when there is something negative to report, and we are continually told our culture is inappropriate and heathen.

There are certainly aspects of this but “only portrayed in the media when there is something negative to report” must be false. And “we are continually told our culture is inappropriate and heathen” may be true in part but this seems to be overstating somewhat.

Genetic modification is also viewed by Maori as another wave of colonisation, as it tramples over Maori traditions and disregards Maori cultural and intellectual property. The New Zealand government has approved genetic engineering experiments, in which synthetic human DNA is injected into cows — despite Maori stating that this is a cultural obscenity in every way possible.

“Viewed by Maori” must surely be ‘viewed by the writer’ and perhaps ‘viewed by some Maori’. I would be surprised if all Maori have the same views on genetic modification.

Today, however, it is important to differentiate between theory and practice. While many Maori believe that the continued depletion of resources necessitates restrictions on human activity, and that a balance is required between development and sustainability for future generations, most do not have the resources or capacities to act on their beliefs. Or more tellingly, they are prohibited by colonial legislation to transfer this theory into practice at the iwi and hapu governance level. Decolonising our knowledge means recognising this gap between Maori cosmology and colonial practices.

Another article is referenced: A Pakeha (non-Maori) Male Perspective of Decolonisation in Aotearoa (Alex Barnes):

The emphasis was on the constructive roles young Pakeha can adopt in building real relationships with Maori, as opposed to blaming individuals, who had little to do with the current systems of oppression and inequality. We realized we had to be open to unlearning behaviours taught by the dominant system/paradigm. But I also understood that unlearning behavior is a hard and complex thing to do, especially when surrounded by an environment that actively discourages it.

What I learned in the decolonisation workshop is this: Being part of the dominant culture is not a bad or shameful thing. Instead, it creates an opportunity to make conscious, constructive steps in understanding the people of the land. It is obvious to me that the challenge starts with myself, with my pronunciation, practice, values and everyday thinking. Decolonisation brings with it the challenge of personal development, which will in time re-shape partnerships, families, communities and nations.

I think I’m only scratching the surface here. This is a starting point in trying to understand what decolonisation means in Aotearoa.

Plenty of positives for Aotearoa/New Zealand

Bad news often dominates media coverage of life in Aotearoa New Zealand, but there are plenty of positives we can be grateful for. Stuff summarises some in Here are some things to be cheerful about…


…the recently released Global Peace Index (GPI) named Aotearoa the world’s second safest destination, according to our level of peacefulness.

The GPI includes metrics other than armed conflict; particularly, security spending, civilian displacement, criminal violence and incarceration. High levels of security spending or incarceration may lead temporarily to lower levels of violence, but do not indicate any concrete improvement in peacefulness.


The Stats NZ General Social Survey of almost 9000 New Zealanders shows freedom, rights, and peace; and the natural scenery and environment, rated as extremely important factors in defining Aotearoa. However, older people were more likely than young people to rate farming as extremely important in defining New Zealand.

Around 83 per cent rated their overall life satisfaction at 7 or above on a 0–10 scale. The result was similar in 2014.

About 18 per cent of New Zealanders said they had more than enough money to meet everyday needs, up from around 13 per cent in 2008.

Just under 11 per cent of people said they did not have enough money to meet their needs for housing, food, clothing, and necessities – down from the 15 per cent who said they did not have enough for the basics in 2008.


Unemployment fell to 3.9 per cent in the September 2018 quarter, the lowest rate since the June 2008 quarter when it was 3.8 per cent.

The fall in unemployment, in tandem with a fall in underemployment, was key to the under-utilisation rate falling to 11.3 per cent.

The fall in the unemployment rate in the latest quarter reflected a fall in the number of unemployed people (down 13,000) and a strong rise in employment (up 29,000). Employment rate rose to 68.3 per cent, the highest rate since the series began more than 30 years ago.


Our murder rate has hit a 40-year-low. Figures to June 2018, put the number of murders in New Zealand in 2017 at 35 – a rate of seven for every million people.

Murder rates peaked in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, with the worst year being 1986 when there were 24 murders for every million people, 79 murders in total. The rate has not been at seven or below since 1975, when there were six murders for every million people.

That is a significant drop. Any murder is horrendous for those associated with the victim, but this shows a drop to less than a third of the record levels.


…in just eight months New Zealand’s prison population has dropped by 8 per cent – with more than 800 inmates released between April and late November.

For more than 20 years New Zealand’s prison population has been growing as the crime rate has been dropping. But following an instruction by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to get innovative, new schemes are keeping people from going behind bars.

Some of the schemes being tested include the introduction of an app which allows prisoners to track their bail applications and conditions, while sending reminders of upcoming court appearances.

Bail officers are now in prisons and courts to help illiterate prisoners who can’t fill out bail application forms. And in prison, specialised teams work with prisoners due for parole and help them meet the conditions to be eligible first time round.

Prison remains essential for the worst offenders, but the justice system was dysfunctional, resulting in too many people being imprisoned, especially before trial.


More than half of New Zealanders say te reo Māori should be a core subject in primary schools.

“Only six in 100 New Zealanders say they can kōrero i te reo Māori or speak Māori very well, well, or fairly well,” statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said. “However, more than half of New Zealanders commonly use te reo words or phrases.”

More than a third of those surveyed said it would be a good idea if all New Zealanders spoke both languages.

This is a good thing as long as it isn’t overdone. National media must give some priority to making themselves understood to as many people as possible and too much te reo can exclude the majority of people from the message, but te reo as an interest or hobby is good for those who want to use it more.


Premature babies born in New Zealand have a better chance to “survive and thrive” than in many other countries around the world, a world-first study showed.


Although 605,000 New Zealand adults still smoke, more than 700,000 have given up smoking and more than 1.9 million New Zealanders have never smoked regularly.

Smoking was one of the two leading modifiable risks to health in 2013, accounting for about 9 per cent of all illness, disability and premature mortality.

A biennial study of Year 10 students (14 to 15 year-olds) reports daily smoking rates are 2.1 per cent, an all-time low and down from 15.2 per cent when the survey began in 2000. More than 80 per cent of young people have never had tried tobacco.

A very positive trend. While both my parents smoked I have never liked it – and I realised just recently that although I had a few puffs of sorts when a child I never did it ‘properly’ – I never really inhaled into my lungs. I did get far too much second hand smoke, some at home but in particular later at pubs and parties, but now the occasion times I get a whiff of tobacco smoke walking down the street reminds me how horrible it is.


Broadband connections with unlimited data caps made up over 70 per cent of all broadband connections in New Zealand in 2018.

Also, nearly 600,000 homes and businesses now have high-speed fibre-optic internet connections, a 54 per cent increase from 2017.

I ditched my landline a couple of years ago, and connected to fibre earlier this year.

The latest ‘phone book’ is just a marketing publication now, no private phone numbers in it at all (some people must still have landlines).


​Expats love the Kiwi experience, culture and how welcoming we are, but we have high costs and low salaries.

Aotearoa ranked second overall in the HSBC global expat explorer studyfor 2018, coming in behind Singapore on the list of best destinations to live.

The list was long for what people loved about the land of the long white cloud: the quality of life, healthcare, work-life balance, safety, tolerance and it goes on.


Our air quality in New Zealand is generally good and that the overall trend is getting slightly better, with downward trends recorded for some pollutants.

Particulate matter levels have dropped since 2007 – Includes both organic and inorganic particles, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.

Nitrogen dioxide concentration dropping – Despite more vehicles on the road, there has been a decreasing trend in nitrogen dioxide concentrations between 2004 and 2016.

Light pollution is mainly good – Most of our skies are pristine. However, light pollution in cities means 56 per cent of Kiwis can’t see the Milky Way.

On clear nights I get a very good view of the night sky with the Milky Way clearly able to be seen.


Volunteers contributed over 13.5 million hours working for organisations in a Statistics NZ survey conducted in 2016. At the current minimum hourly wage rate of $16.50, ($17.70 next year) this would equate to just over $222 million every four weeks.

Women had a higher participation rate in volunteering than men – 54.4 per cent of, compared with 45 per cent of men.

I guess that running a blog sort of qualifies.

Good on Stuff for collating a pile of positives – most of us have a lot to be thankful for living in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Why wasn’t New Zealand inhabited by humans earlier?

There are some obvious answers to why New Zealand wasn’t inhabited by humans earlier, in particular our distance from  any other inhabited land. But Polynesians obviously travelled by sea a lot.

Perhaps they didn’t venture south of the Pacific islands sooner. Or maybe they tried and didn’t survive the journey. Or maybe some did survive the journey but left no sign of making it here – they may not have survived once getting here.

The question was asked at Reddit – New Zealand history: Why wasn’t new zealand inhabited by humans earlier?

I am traveling New Zealand right now, and I read the maori wikipedia page. There it says that the maori arrived only ~800 years ago. Isn’t that a wee bit late? There were people in Australia for 80000 (?)years and Oceania was inhabited for a longer while, too. Is it hard to get from Australia to New Zealand with previous boats/ships? Or were the aboriginese just uninterested in sailing?

The Easter Islands are thought to have been inhabited in the early A.D.s, for example, and they were in contact with other people for a while in the beginning – so there was traveling going on else where.

How certain can we be that the ecology was pristine when the Maori arrived? Were they in contact with other islands/people afterwards?

Aborigines in Australia are an interesting comparison. Australia was much closer to Indonesia when sea levels were lower, so was far more accessible.

Wikipedia: History of Indigenous Australians

The History of Indigenous Australians began at least 65,000 years ago when humans first populated Australia.

The origin of first humans to populate the southern continent remains a matter of conjecture and debate. Some anthropologist believe they could have arrived as a result of the earliest human migrations out of Africa. Although they likely migrated to the territory, later named Australia, though Southeast Asia they are not demonstrably related to any known Asian or Polynesian population. There is evidence of genetic and linguistic interchange between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian peoples of modern-day New Guinea and the islands, but this may be the result of recent trade and intermarriage.

At the time of first European contact, it is generally estimated that between 315,000 to 750,000 people lived in Australia, in diverse groups, but upper estimates place the total population as high as 1.25 million.

It is believed that the first early human migration to Australia was achieved when this landmass formed part of the Sahul continent, connected to the island of New Guinea via a land bridge. It is also possible that people came by island hopping via an island chain between Sulawesi and New Guinea and the other reaches North Western Australia via Timor.

The most generally accepted date for first arrival is between 40,000–80,000 years BP

A Brief Aboriginal History:

It is estimated that over 750,000 Aboriginal people inhabited the island continent in 1788.

Share Our Pride: Our shared history

Aboriginal peoples are the oldest surviving culture in the world, having established ways of managing their land and society that were sustainable and ensured good health. They have occupied Australia for at least 60,000 years. While there was significant contact and trade between the diverse peoples who inhabited this continent, there was no contact, no exchange of cultures or knowledge between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the world.

Aborigine history is fascinating, but appears to be unrelated to Aotearoa history until Cook’s voyage in 1788.

The Aborigines had a huge continent to inhabit so may not have had much if any inclination to explore far by sea, especially to the south (and New Zealand to the south east).

The Pacific migrations happened over the last 3,000-4,000 years, and are thought to have reached Aotearoa between 1200 and 1300 AD – that’s relatively recent.

Te Ara: Map of Pacific migrations

The first people to reach New Zealand were Polynesians who set out from the central Pacific on deliberate voyages of discovery in large canoes. They reached New Zealand, in the south-west corner of the Pacific, between 1200 and 1300 AD. Around 2,000–3,000 years before this, the Lapita people, ancestors of the Polynesians, had colonised the far-flung islands of the Pacific from South-East Asia.

Hawaii and Rapa Nui were distant from the bulk of Pacific Islands and were inhabited relatively late in history, but well before Aotearoa.

It took European explorers quite a while to venture down our way. Abel Tasman got here in 1642 but that may have been more because of weather than intent.

Wikipedia: Abel Tasman

Tasman sailed from Batavia on 14 August 1642 and arrived at Mauritius on 5 September 1642.

Because of the prevailing winds Mauritius was chosen as a turning point. After a four-week stay on the island both ships left on 8 October using the Roaring Forties to sail east as fast as possible. On 7 November snow and hail influenced the ship’s council to alter course to a more north-eastern direction, expecting to arrive one day at the Solomon Islands.

On 24 November 1642 Abel Tasman reached and sighted the west coast of Tasmania,

Proceeding south Tasman skirted the southern end of Tasmania and turned north-east. He then tried to work his two ships into Adventure Bay on the east coast of South Bruny Island where he was blown out to sea by a storm.

The next day, an attempt was made to land in North Bay. However, because the sea was too rough the carpenter swam through the surf and planted the Dutch flag.

For two more days, he continued to follow the east coast northward to see how far it went. When the land veered to the north-west at Eddystone Point, he tried to keep in with it but his ships were suddenly hit by the Roaring Forties howling through Banks Strait.

The impenetrable wind wall indicated that here was a strait, not a bay. Tasman was on a mission to find the Southern Continent, not more islands, so he abruptly turned away to the east and continued his continent-hunting.

He journeyed eastwards well south of the Australian continent.

After some exploration, Tasman had intended to proceed in a northerly direction but as the wind was unfavourable he steered east. The expedition endured an extremely rough voyage and in one of his diary entries Tasman credited his compass, claiming it was the only thing that had kept him alive.

On 13 December 1642 they sighted land on the north-west coast of the South Island, New Zealand, becoming the first Europeans to do so.

“We believe that this is the mainland coast of the unknown Southland’. Tasman thought he had found the western side of the long-imagined Terra Australis that stretched across the Pacific to the Southern tip of South America.

After sailing north, then east for five days, the expedition anchored about 7 km from the coast off what is now believed to have been Golden Bay.

Tasman then sailed north up the west coast of the North Island and continued north to the Pacific Islands.

While the location of some land of New Zealand was now known to Europeans, it was not until James Cook got here on 6 October 1769 that they came down our way and recorded finding land.


Creeping Aotearoa (whakamokamoka Aotearoa?)

Our country is increasingly being referred to as Aotearoa, and particularly as ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’.

Political parties, unions, public organisations use the term.

‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ is also popular for company names. Searching the companies register shows 85 match ″aotearoa new zealand″.

It appears that our country is gradually being renamed. Some of this is happening by popular adoption, but there also appears to be deliberate intent to rename our country by stealth.

I like the name Aotearoa. It is the Maori preference, and has become uniquely ours.

I don’t have any empathy with ‘New Zealand’ as a name. The ‘new’ makes it sound like a colonial takeover. ‘There is little or no connection between here and ‘Zealand’, an island in Denmark.

If we had a choice I would likely vote for a name change to Aotearoa.

But I object to it being effectively adopted by stealth.

We should be having a proper open discussion about the name and identity of our country, we should have a binding referendum on whether the name should be changed officially.

I have concerns about how that process would go. The flag debate was corrupted by partisan political interests, and showed how immature we can be when debating important issues. It also showed how disruptive some people can get when they don’t get what they want.

So if we debate a country official name change there is a risk of it becoming an ugly shit fight.

But I think we should follow proper democratic processes and public discussion on this, rather than let a creeping name change happen by stealth.

It is likely that some will claim, as happened in the flag debate, that a name change couldn’t or shouldn’t happen without a comprehensive change to how our country is run, whether we become a republic, whether we adopt a constitution, and to what degree and how the Treaty of Waitangi becomes embedded as not just a founding document but also as am ongoing dictate of how we do things.

But doing all of this together would be to much to deal with at one time. And it looks a long way off, there is not drive to do all this, especially while a queen on the other side of the world remains on her throne.

I think we should be up front in discussing the name of our country, and this can easily be done as a separate decision. It should be done as a separate decision, avoiding complications of other issues. It shouldn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ thing with the flag and constitution and republic decisions.

I’m quite happy with ‘Aotearoa’, but I want an open and honest debate rather than creeping change by stealth.

Harmony and Māori words

As Māori is used more the debate over how much it should be taught in schools and spoken on radio grows.

Māori words have always been used, as many place names are Māori. However the language was deliberately suppressed in an ill advised education system.

The language is making a bit of a revival, with some enthusiastic supporters and promoters, but some colonial traditionalists are trying to dig their white toes in.

Kate Fryberg: Harmony and the case for Māori wards

And the voice which most needs to be heard, the key note of our harmony here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is the voice of Māori. Why? To extend the metaphor, the first human voices in this land were those of Tangata Whenua.

It is Māori heritage and culture which makes this country unique – as many of us Pākehā travellers have discovered when asked to “sing a song from your country” and we find ourselves limping through a half-remembered version of Pōkarekare Ana.

Singing that a bit is one of my few memories of Māori at school.

More importantly, it is thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi that we non-Māori have the opportunity to live here. We have been invited to add our voices to the original songs.

We non-Māori, including we Pākehā.

The term Pākehā has had some bad vibes for some, but when I investigated i found that the term refereed to “the soft and loud sounds of the language of Captain Cook and his sailors” load see The soft and loud of “Pākehā”.

I am quite comfortable with being referred to as Pākehā, even though I do more soft than loud.

I have no problem with more Māori being taught in schools – in my time it was disgracefully ignored, along with important New Zealand history.

I don’t mind some use of Māori  in media, but i think that some of it is overdone. Good on RNZ for using the native language more, but for me it is sometimes overdone and I switch off.

It is probably near impossible to get the right balance for everyone. Younger people in particular who have had the opportunity to learn some Māori will benefit from it’s wider use. It’s not about me and my history, it’s about the future of New Zealand, of Aotearoa (a name I would be happy to use if it became official).

Bits of Māori speech in Parliament is lost on me but it’s probably no worse than the vast vapid verbiage used there.

I cringe when listening to our God laced dirge of a national anthem, but it is far more tolerable listening to the Māori  version.

We have a unique history which has a strong Māori flavour, and that should be a part of our identity, and it should be something we can be proud of.

Māori can certainly be a harmonious language when at it’s best (it’s use in hakas is not at it’s best). The world won’t end, the sky won’t fall in, and the long white cloud won’t evaporate if we hear some more of it.

We can live in harmony as a multi-lingual society if we try.


Te Tiriti was lucky to survive

An interesting series of tweets from @verslibre (archivist Stefanie) on how the Treaty of Waitangi got into a poor condition.

After te Tiriti finished being signed by September 1840 the nine sheets made their way back one by one to the offices of the government in Okiato, old Russell.

When the government moved to Auckland in 1842 te Tiriti moved too. By 1841 the nine sheets had been put for safekeeping in an especially requisitioned metal trunk. This likely saved them when the offices of government caught fire in 1842 and burned down.

The sheets, along with He Whakaputanga most likely, were saved by a quick-thinking records clerk.

The government records back then were all kept in the office of the Colonial Secretary, the Governor’s right-hand man and the guy who got all the shit done.

When the capital moved to Wellington in 1865 te Tiriti came too with the rest of the records of government.

The period of damage that you refer to occurred some time between the years 1877 and 1908. The documents were kept, rolled up we think, in the basement of the Govt buildings. Which is now the law school on Lambton Quay.

They were discovered, all damaged, in about 1908 by Dr Thomas Hocken, who for reasons I’ve never been able to get to the bottom of was fossicking round down there and luckily knew what he’d found.


The distinctive damaged shape of the Waitangi sheet comes from its having been nibbled by rats or mice. It’s made of parchment, animal skin. You’ll see the other paper sheets are not so nibbled = not as delicious to critters. There’s one other parchment sheet, also nibbled.

Incidentally we recently discovered through DNA testing that the Waitangi parchment is made of goat skin, the Herald sheet from calf skin. I digress.

Fortunately back in 1877 the Govt Print tested their new photolithographic machine on the Treaty sheets, so we know what was on the parts that were nibbled away between 1877 and about 1908.

After that they were taken into the care of the Department of Internal Affairs (that’s what the Colonial Secretary’s office had been renamed to).

They’ve had several repairs, the most recent major one in 1987.

Once the National Archives was instituted in 1957 they came under the care of the Chief Archivist and have been there ever since.

The archivists and conservators who look after Te Tiriti now love it with all our hearts.

Hope this was mildly interesting

Very interesting thanks Stefanie.

Te Ara – Story: Treaty of Waitangi

And what about ‘Aotearoa’?

Following on from A constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand? – what about also having a serious conversation about the name of our country?

I don’t like what seems to be happening, change by stealth. Our country is currently called ‘New Zealand’ and I don’t think it should be referred to as ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ – yet at least.

We should discuss it openly and decide whether we want to continue to be known as New Zealand, or if we should revert to the indigenous version, Aotearoa.

I’d be quite happy for and supportive of a change to Aotearoa, but it should be decided, not imposed by creeping imposition.

‘New Zealand’ isn’t even the first European name for our country.

In 1642 Abel Tasman named it Staten Landt.

In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed it Nova Zeelandia.

Over a century later James Cook anglicised it to New Zealand.

‘Aotearoa’ has also evolved as a name.It originally referred to the North Island but gradually became used for and accepted as a name for the whole country.

The common translation is ‘land of the long white cloud’ but ‘long bright world’ or ‘land of abiding day’ are also possibilities.

It can depend on how the word is broken down.

  • Aotea: a cloudy-white or blue-grey variety of greenstone resembling white clouds
    Aotea: canoe that brought Turi and his people from Hawaiki, eventually arriving in Taranaki where they intermarried with the tangata whenua tribes
  • Roa: long time, length, length of time, delay


  • Ao: world, globe, global
    Ao: bright
    Ao: earth
    Ao: day, daytime – as opposed to night
    Ao: cloud
  • Tea: white, clear, transparent
  • Roa: long time, length, length of time, delay

So there is plenty of scope there.

Roa is also the name for the great spotted kiwi, Apteryx haastii, but ‘land of the transparent kiwi’ is probably not a goer.

I like playing with language but that’s really a diversion.

Regardless of what it was originally intended to mean ‘Aotearoa’ is widely accepted as one name for our country. I’d be quite happy if it became our sole name and ‘New Zealand’ drifted off into a part of our history.

But I expect that woukld be a bit contentious.


Aotearoa New Zealand?

There seems to be increasing use of the term ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’. I don’t have any issue with the concept of the term in general, but it seems to be creeping into official use. I’m not aware of any official designation of it, so it appears that some are trying to arbitrarily impose it without due process.

This was highlighted in a column by Fran O’Sullivan where she quoted the Race Relations Commissioner using it:

“I am Aotearoa New Zealand … te rangi tahu, together we grow” is in fact the slogan Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy chose as the theme for this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

I thought race relations would not try to impose an unofficial term and use due process to reach agreement on any change.

The Human Rights Commission website doesn’t use the term…

About This Site

This website is owned by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. The aim of this website is to promote and educate the New Zealand public on human rights in an accessible and user-friendly format.

…including on it’s Race Relations page but in a link there:

Race Relations Day 2014

Race Relations Day, 21 March,  marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is celebrated around the world. The 2014 theme is “I am Aotearoa New Zealand…te ranga tahi, together we grow.”

Dame Susan is Aotearoa New Zealand from NZ Human Rights on Vimeo.

Belonging and feeling connected is essential for a healthy society. This year’s theme explores the balance between having our own individual identities and the potential of a diverse and united collective.    It expresses that everyone here, no matter what their race or cultural background, belongs, and that there are many ways of being a New Zealander. If we understand and appreciate our differences we can grow together into an Aotearoa/New Zealand that is based on dignity and respect.

Complete the sentence “I am Aotearoa New Zealand because…” and share the different ways we can be New Zealanders.

It seems odd for the Race Relations Commissioner to arbitrarily use the term like this. She is likely to divide more than promote togetherness.

If it hasn’t been properly designated then ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ looks like a slogan being imposed.

Aotearoa is generally stated as the Māori name for New Zealand although there seems to be doubt about it’s origin. It may have at one time just referred to the North Island.

The Constitution Act 1986 makes no mention of ‘Aotearoa’.

Greens use the term in their full name – The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – and Green MPs frequently use the term (although abbreviate as per

A search of National’s website finds no official use of the term (or ‘Aotearoa’), there are only references to organisations who use ‘Aotearoa’ in their name.

Labour don’t prominently promote the term but use it in their Māori Development policy:

Labour acknowledges Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa/New Zealand and accepts that Te Tiriti should be honoured in government, society and the family.

Māori hold a particular status as the indigenous people, tangata whenua of Aotearoa/New Zealand. That status is acknowledged by the United Nations and Labour supports formal recognition of this status.

But their use seems limited, as in their other Māori policy Te Reo Māori they use ‘New Zealand’ alone in English language paragraphs and ‘Aotearoa’ alone in Māori paragraphs.

A search of Labour’s website suggests sparse use:

Maiden speech – Jenny Salesa – New Zealand Labour Party

Oct 24, 2014  My family moved to Aotearoa New Zealand

Labour will facilitate regional Māori economic development agencies

Aug 17, 2014  … will take up the challenge to equip rangatahi with the skills they need to build a 
quality life in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Nanaia Mahuta

Oddly the search summary of this quotes “this country AOTEAROA“…

Merry Christmas – New Zealand Labour Party

Dec 22, 2014  … a very industrious, hard-working family, and we need a government who is 
going to ensure that the ‘real workers’ of this country AOTEAROA, …

…but this links to a video message from Labour leader Andreww Little who doesn’t mention any version of a country name at all.

Something as fundamental to New Zealand as the country name (and flag and anthem) should be dealt with due process, and any change should involve proper consultation and official designation.

Aotearoa (from Wikipedia):

Aotearoa (Māori: [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa], originally used in reference to the North Island of New Zealand, is now the most widely known and accepted Māori name for the entire country.

Translation: The original derivation of Aotearoa is not known for certain. The common translation is “the land of the long white cloud”.


When Māori began incorporating the name Aotearoa into their lore is unknown.

After the adoption of the name New Zealand by Europeans, one name used by Māori to denote the country as a whole was Niu Tireni, a transliteration of New Zealand.

From 1845, George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, spent some years amassing information from Māori regarding their legends and histories. He translated it into English, and in 1855 published a book called Polynesian Mythology And Ancient Traditional History Of The New Zealand Race.

Thus died this Maui we have spoken of; but before he died he had children, and sons were born to him; some of his descendants yet live in Hawaiki, some in Aotearoa (or in these islands); the greater part of his descendants remained in Hawaiki, but a few of them came here to Aotearoa.

In the 19th century, Aotearoa was sometimes used to refer to the North Island only.

An example of that usage appeared in the first issue of Huia Tangata Kotahi, a Māori language newspaper published on 8 February 1893. It contained the dedication on the front page, “He perehi tenei mo nga iwi Maori, katoa, o Aotearoa, mete Waipounamu”, meaning “This is a publication for the Māori tribes of Aotearoa and the South Island.

Regardless of it’s origin and historic usage Aotearoa is accepted as a Māori description applying to the whole of New Zealand now – but ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ seems to have no official designation.