Aotearoa or New Zealand? Kiwis think about the name

If the Kiwis’ willingness to sign a petition is any guide, New Zealand is ready to change its name.

Dueling polls from parties on opposite ends of the political spectrum have tested New Zealand’s appetite for “Aotearoa”.

The Maori Party’s attempt to rebadge the country 10 days later has more than 60,000 New Zealanders in support.

“There is a strong appetite for change,” co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told AAP.

“People want to build our nation. Te reo Maori (the Maori language) is a big part of it.”

On the other side of the ledger are the traditionalists.

A counter-petition launched by New Zealand first party Winston Peters has not gone so well, with fewer than 15,000 signatures after six days.

“The petition is going well. This is not a race,” Peters told the AAP.

Mr Peters, Jacinda Ardern’s former deputy prime minister, stepped out of the political desert this month.

Its defense of the name New Zealand, given to the South Pacific islands by Dutch explorers and cartographers in the 1600s, is one reason.

“It’s not a race because at the end of the day it’s a question of the mandate to make all of these changes,” he said.

“(The New Zealanders) support the position as they did when John Key tried to change the flag. He invested a huge amount of money and it failed.”

The 2016 New Zealand flag referendum – which resulted in 57% support for the existing banner with union jack and red star Southern Cross – was the last big nationality question posed to the Kiwis.

The Maori party is aiming for 100,000 signatures and will table its petition in parliament in an attempt to force the issue.

This is where the process is likely to end, as Ms Ardern has little appetite to consider change, even though she supports an unofficial double-naming policy.

“We don’t intend to go through a formal process to change the name,” Ms. Ardern said.

“Of course te reo Maori is an official language and therefore we use these names interchangeably and I think we should continue to do so.”

Ms Ngarewa-Packer believes the time will come for a formal change – and that Maori Labor MPs could force the government’s hand.

“The Labor Party has more Maori in government than we have ever had (…) we are going to encourage them and hold them to account,” she said.

“We are in parliament to push back the limits, to push the reflection, to extend our reflection.

“We see the utter desperation of iwi (Maori communities) across the country trying to restore their ancestral and historical names which were suppressed during the period of colonization.

“We will create a place where iwi and the government can talk about ourselves and our history. It will become a forum of unity for Aotearoa… fostering a sense of pride and connectedness.”

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