Laws and Mair both happy!

December 19th, 2009 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The decision to allow the spelling of Wanganui with or without the “h” has been welcomed by both sides in what has, at times, been an acrimonious debate.

Mayor Michael Laws hailed the move by Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson to overturn the Geographic Board’s decision to go with the “h” as an “early Christmas present for the city and district”.

Ken Mair, a Maori activist and one of the driving forces in seeking a change in the spelling of the city’s name, said after conveying the decision to local Maori at a city marae: “We recognise it was a difficult and courageous decision to make, but the correct one.

Maurice will be pretty happy with those headlines, even if Colin Espiner calls him a whimp.

Herald says its both

December 18th, 2009 at 7:23 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald has what looks to be a scoop:

Wanganui is to be given its “h” back in a compromise under which Government agencies will have to follow the new spelling but others will have a choice.

Land Information minister Maurice Williamson will visit Wanganui today to announce his decision on whether it will become Whanganui.

This follows a sometimes-acrimonious public debate on the issue and a Geographic Board recommendation to insert the “h”.

The Herald understands his solution will be similar to the compromises that created Aorangi/Mt Cook and Mt Egmont/Mt Taranaki, making Wanganui and Whanganui official names.

Sounds fairly sensible. I have previously blogged that a recommendation of the Geographic Board should only be declined by the Minister if there is some failure on their part to consult properly.


Incidentally I was e-mailed this yesterday by a mate. He mentioned at the Press Gallery party that he had just been reading a 1938 history book which pointed out the name Wanganui was a mis-spelling, so this issue is not some new retrospective rewriting of history. I asked him to e-mail me a scan, which he did.

Anyway we’ll find out around midday what the official decision is.

Polls and markets on Wanganui

October 2nd, 2009 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports on a poll on Wanganui:

The survey – made public yesterday by research company UMR – found 62 per cent of respondents from around the country wanted Wanganui to stay the way it was. Only 25 per cent of 750 surveyed supported a change to Whanganui, while 13 per cent were undecided.

iPredict has also launched stocks on whether the Minister will go with the recommendation of the NZ Geographic Board. They have four stocks:

  1. Whanganui is at 80.2c, indicating a clear market belief that the Minister will not second guess the Geographic Board.
  2. Wanganui is at 6.9c
  3. An option of Whanganui/Wanganui (ie both) is on 5.1c
  4. Some other option is on 8.3c

I expect the Minister to follow the recommendation. I think the job of the Minister is to check the Board followed correct process, consulted widely, and considered all relevant issues. I don’t think it is their job to substitute their personal whim or preference for the Board’s.


September 17th, 2009 at 3:59 pm by David Farrar

Personally I don’t care very much whether the city is called Wanganui as it is currently, or Whanganui as the river and electorate are named.

No matter how you spell it, my advice is to avoid it 🙂

But the simple fact of the matter is, 77% of Wanganui voters, voted in a referendum that they did not want the name to change.

I really think it is silly to force a change against such opposition.

The backlash against stuff like forced name changes, tends to build opposition to stuff which is important – such as settling historic claims.

Chris Trotter has written eloquently on how names change over time – even mistakes become legitimate names. Caesar became Kaiser (and Czar) for example.

For all that, now that the New Zealand Geographic Board has made a decision, I think it should be implemented. There is effectively a Ministerial veto but I don’t think it is a great precedent for Ministers to over-rule the expert boards, unless not to do so would lead to a something very bad happening. And at the end of the day, it is only a name.

Trotter on Wanganui vs Whanganui

April 6th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes a provocative column on the great Wanganui debate (personally I have no problems with it going to Whanganui as Wanganui was basically a typo):

For a start, I am more than a little disturbed to learn that the Geographic Board is legally obliged to replace English with Maori place-names wherever possible.

This suggests to me that the New Zealand state will not be content until all evidence of its colonial history has been, quite literally, wiped off the map.

WHO IS responsible for this extraordinary policy? Did anyone seek the endorsement of the New Zealand electorate before embarking on what can only be called a campaign of historical ethnic cleansing?

Are the achievements of our pioneering ancestors worth so little that all trace of their presence and contribution is to be expunged?

The place-names chosen by the early settlers to animate the landscapes they were creating reveal much about both their personalities and their aspirations.

What and who we are is inextricably bound up with the words we choose to describe both ourselves and our surroundings.

While I have no issue with Wanganui being Whanganui, I think Chris does have a very valid point. I ma proud that Wellington is named after the Duke of Wellington. I am proud to live on Hobson Street – named after Governor Hobson who signed the Treaty of Waitangi. I would not want to see these names disappear over time.

Let me tell you about Bowalley Road, the rough gravel track that runs past the farm where I grew up in the early 1960s.

Geoffrey Miller happens to drive past Bowalley Road a few days ago. He took these two snaps.


The signpost.


And the road itself.

The proper noun Bowalley is a corruption of another proper noun, Bewley, which is a corruption of the French adjective beaulieu, meaning beautiful place, which itself became a proper noun when Charles Suisted, a Swedish settler who, having acquired that part of the North Otago coast lying to the north of the Waianakarua River and east of Mt Charles in the 1850s, bestowed that name upon it.

When my father came to purchase the property, nearly a century later, Beaulieu was still its name.

By that time, however, the locals, who struggled with the correct French pronunciation of Beaulieu, had taken to referring to the property as either Bewley or Bowalley.

Another version of Bowalley was Baldie, which eventually became The Baldie, signifying the little creek that runs through the property, and empties, via a marshy delta, into the Pacific Ocean at the end of Bowalley Rd.

Obliterate the names Beaulieu, Bewley, Bowalley and Baldie and you obliterate the linguistic legacy of all the lives that have been lived in that part of North Otago since the beginning of European settlement nearly 190 years ago.

The point Chris makes, quite elegantly, is even typos or corruptions, can come to have real meaning over time.

The Lower North Island Seats

November 13th, 2008 at 4:32 am by David Farrar

Whanganui had a 3% lead in the party vote in 2005, and this expanded out to 22% in 2008. And the 3,500 majority for Borrows goes to 6,000.

Rangitikei sees a 25% lead in the party vote and Simon Power moves his majority from 9,000 to 11,000.

Tukituki has an 18% lead in the party vote, and a 2,600 majority for Craig Foss gets a boost thanks to Labour’s sacking of the local District Health Board to over 7,000.

Palmerston North has been held by Labour since 1978. The party vote was narrowly won by National but Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway held off Malcolm Plimmer by 1,000 votes.

Wairarapa has National 17% ahead on the party vote. And John Hayes turns the seat safe with a 2,900 majority converting to 6,300 in 2008.

Otaki was a huge battle. I’ve door knocked Otaki in the past and it is not natural National territory in the Horowhenua parts. So winning the party vote by 8% is good for National after trailling by 3% last time. Darren Hughes put up a huge fight to protect his sub 400 majority but Nathan Guy grabbed the seat by almost 1,500.

In Wellington, Labour does a lot better starting with Mana. Labour remains 6% ahead on the party vote but reduced from 18% in 2005. Winnie Laban’s 6,800 majority shrinks only slightly to 5.300.

Rimutaka was the last hope for NZ First. Labour won the party vote there in 2005 by 11% and in 2008 by 0.3%. On the electorate vote just as narrow with Labour’s Chris Hipkins pipping Richard Whiteside by 600 votes. Ron Mark got a credible 5,000 votes but stll trailed by 7,000.

Hutt South is home to Wainuiomata and Trevor Mallard. Trevor delivered a party vote margin for Labour of 4% and a 3,600 majority for himself. In 2005 the party vote margin was 14% and the personal majority 6,600 so some movement there.

Rongotai is now the home of the Labour Deputy Leader. But even before her ascension, Rongotai gave Labour a massive 11% margin on the party vote – 43% to 32% for National. And her personal 13,000 majority in 2005 was only slightly dented to just under 8,000. If that is her low tide mark, she’ll be happy.

Wellington Central saw in 2005 a party vote for National of just 33%, Labour 43% and Greens around 16%. In 2008 it was National 36%, Labour 34% and Greens around 20%. Marian Hobbs had a 5,800 majority and Stephen Franks cut that to 1,500 against new MP Grant Robertson with some Green party votes giving Robertson their electorate vote to keep Franks out.

Ohariu was assumed by almost everyone to be safe as houses for Peter Dunne. But it got close this time. First on the party vote, National beat Labour 43% to 40% in 2005. This time it was 47% to 33%. On the candidate vote Peter Dunne dropped from 45% to 33% making him vulnerable. National’s Katrina Shanks lifted her vote from 21% to 26% and Labour’s Charles Chauvel from 26% to 30%. The Greens candidate got 7% of the vote and may have ironically saved the seat for Dunne.