Petition garners 25,000 signatures on first day . . .
On September 14, the co-leaders of Te Pāti Māori (the Māori Party) announced a petition to formally change the name of New Zealand to Aotearoa, its name in te reo Māori (the Māori language). The petition, which also calls on Parliament to restore all Māori place names, including names of towns and cities, within five years garnered more than 25,000 signatures in its first 24 hours. Recent reporting suggests over 60,000 people have given their support to the call, while Te Pāti Māori hopes to increase that number to 100,000. The country’s population is about five million.
A petition anniversary . . .
The petition’s opening came on the 49th anniversary of the delivery to the New Zealand Parliament of an earlier petition for te reo Māori to be recognized as an official language of the country. That petition contained 30,000 signatures. In 1987, Parliament passed the Māori Language Act, which enshrined te reo’s Māori’s official status in law. Even though Māori Language Week has been celebrated in mid-September since the mid-1970s, te reo Māori is spoken today by only 20 per cent of Māori and only three per cent of the broader population. In 1910, about 90 per cent of Māori spoke te reo. But by 1950, only about one quarter was able to speak the language after it was systematically suppressed, including in schools.
Te reo Māori contested . . .
Earlier this year, an opposition MP called for a referendum on the country’s name, including that the use of ‘Aotearoa’ be banned on official documents until such a referendum passed. Yet, for many people and companies, the interchangeable use of ‘Aotearoa’ and ‘New Zealand’ is commonplace. Many te reo Māori words, expressions, and cultural concepts are defining features of New Zealand English. Some government ministries are more commonly referred to by their te reo Māori name than their English name, and the country’s national museum, Te Papa, is referred to exclusively in te reo Māori. Yet a recent poll found 58 per cent support for ‘New Zealand’ and 41 per cent wanting ‘Aotearoa’ as part of the country’s name, with 31 per cent preferring ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ and nine per cent supporting ‘Aotearoa.’
- The Guardian: New Zealand Māori party launches petition to change country’s name to Aotearoa
- New Zealand Herald: Aotearoa-New Zealand name change debate: New poll shows while majority in favour of status quo there is support for change
- Stuff: What’s in a name? Aotearoa-New Zealand debate continues to simmer