WELLINGTON – New Zealand’s two main islands have never been formally named due to a clerical oversight lasting 200 years despite being universally known as the North and South Islands. But that’s finally about to change, officials say.
The names had appeared on maps since European settlement began in the early 1800s but had never been formally recognized, the New Zealand Geographic Board said Thursday.
After public consultations, the board is now proposing two names each for the islands, one in English and one in the indigenous Maori language.
The English version will be the widely used North and South Islands.
The Maori names aired by the board are Te Waipounamu — meaning rivers of green stone — for South Island and Te Ika-a-Maui — the fish of Maui (a Maori god) — for the North.
The board said both the English and Maori names will be able to be used on official documents and maps.
The change is expected to be formally adopted later this year.