Posted on September 15, 2021

New Zealand Māori Party Launches Petition to Change Country’s Name to Aotearoa

Tess McClure, The Guardian, September 13, 2021

The Māori party has launched a petition to change New Zealand’s official name to Aotearoa, the te reo Māori, indigenous language name for the country.

“It’s well past time that Te Reo Māori was restored to its rightful place as the first and official language of this country,” Te Pāti Māori leaders, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said in a statement launching the petition. “We are a Polynesian country – we are Aotearoa.”

“Aotearoa is a name that will unify our country rather than divide it,” Waititi said. “Others are trying to use it is a divisive tool, but this is an inclusive tool, where our ancestors consented to us all living on this whenua [land] together.”

“New Zealand is a Dutch name. Even the Dutch have changed their name – from Holland to the Netherlands, for Christ’s sakes!”

The petition also calls on the government to “identify and officially restore the original Te Reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places right across the country” over the next five years, completing the process by 2026.

“Tangata whenua are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored. It’s the 21st century, this must change,” the petition reads.

Te Pāti Māori said successive governments and “the imposition of a colonial agenda in the education system” had resulted in widespread language loss among Māori, with fluency dropping from 90% to 20% over the past 90 years.


Over time, New Zealanders, including state officials, political leaders and companies have increasingly come to use Aotearoa interchangeably with or alongside New Zealand – but the shift hasn’t been made official.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said last year that an official name-change, was “not something we’ve explored,” but that she supported more people using the name. {snip}