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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, February 16, 2009

New push to add h the Whanganui

A smoldering dispute over whether Wanganui should be spelt with an "h" or nor not is coming to a head with local Maori applying to the New Zealand Geographic board to have the city's name changed.

Southern Whanganui Iwi Cluster communications co-ordinator George Matthews says while local mayor Michael Laws has said a name change would be fiercely resisted by the local community it is backed by local MP' Turiana Turia and Chester Burrows.

“We can gnash our teeth and rant and rage about the cost of changing stationary but the fact of the matter is Whanganui without an ‘h’ means nothing and to give it some true meaning and to be respectful to others, it’s got to have the ‘h’ in with it,” Mr Matthews says.

The application by Te Runanaga o Tupoho will be the first time in 63 years the geographic board has been asked to change a city's name.


Tainui's executive board, Te Ara Taura, will benefit from the experience of Te Ohaaki marae representative Taitimu Maipi.

Board elections were held at the weekend and Taitimu Maipi is the only member of the 10 strong board to serve on the former Tainui Trust board under the leadership of the late Sir Robert Mahuta.

Maori broadcaster and son of Taitimu Maipi, Potaka Maipi, says his father remembers a time when the tribe had no money compared to its current asset base of $700 million.

Potaka Maipi says a mixture of young and old will enable the board to see issues from new perspectives.

“There are quite some young members on Te Ara Taura so it will be interesting to bering a kaumatua view to Te Ara Taura board,” Mr Maipi says.


Organisers of next month's Polyfest want improve the kai available at what is billed the world's largest Maori and Pacific Islands cultural festival.

Director Tania Karoria says the annual Auckland secondary schools competitions are expected to attract more than 90,000 spectators and participants to the Manukau Sportsbowl.

She says high rates of obesity among Maori and Pacific populations sparked a call for action, and she has asked vendors to cut down on fats and sugars and instead offer water or low-sugar drinks and menus that are low in fat and contain more fruit and vegetables.

“Primarily the festival is about our young people and giving them a stage to perform and be who they are, but it is also a prime time to bring some opportune messages about our health,” Ms Karoria says.

Next week's Te Matatini kapa haka national's in Tauranga is also encouraging fast food vendors to cut down the fat, and the Pasifika festival next month is also discouraging sales of deep fried foods.


The Minister of Maori Affairs says competition from public sector agencies and the Maori media is affecting the number of maori going into teaching.

The latest annual report on Maori in education, Nga Haeata Matauranga, identifies the importance of having teachers who can engage effectively with rangatahi to lift their academic performance.

Pita Sharples says such inspiring teachers are hard to find, especially those with skills in te reo Maori.

“The opportunities for Maori speakers across industry and everywhere else is quite enormous at the moment, so we are losing a lot of potential and past teachers of Maori in Maori to media and to industry,” Dr Sharples says.

The report says one in two Maori students is in a decile one school, and 35 percent will leave school with no qualifications, as against the national average of 12 percent.


Whanganui Maori who have been adding the letter "h" to their address for some years says they have not been losing mail because of their defiance and they want the 'h' to be formally added.

George Matthews who is communications co-ordinator with the southern Whanganui iwi cluster group which is supporting an application to the New Zealand Geographic board to have "h" included in the city's name says to do so won't cause problems.

“What is surprising a lot of groups in this town is the number of organisations that are putting the ‘h’ in. We’ve got an ‘h’ in the river, and ‘h’ in the national park, and probably the most significant school in this city is Whanganui Collegiate, it’s run by the Whanganui College Board of trustees and they’ve got an ‘h’ in there name. My mail doesn’t get lost. I’ve been using the ‘h’ for many years now, just to be defiant,” Mr Matthews says.

Mayor Michael Laws says a name change would be fiercely resisted by the community which voted overwhelmingly in 2006 to keep the spelling as it was.

However, local MPs Turiana Turia and Chester Burrows are supporting the application by Te Runanga o Tupoho.


An intellectual property law expert says last week's signing of a treaty agreement between the crown and Ngati Toa acknowledging the haka - Ka Mate - to the iwi is highly significant.

Kim Connelly-Stone from the law firm Kensington Swan who is working on the Ngati Toa claim says moves to protect ka mate under existing property rights have been on hold pending redress through treaty settlement.

“The letter of agreement that was signed last week is really significant. It does acknowledge the significance of Ka Mate to Ngati Toa and is now going to set in place a process where the Crown will sit down with Ngati Toa and think through how can we protect this very important haka,” Ms Connolly-Stone says.

She says Ka Mate cannot be protected by existing intellectual property law is because something can only be protected for 50 years after its author has died.

However this could be changed by the government to give protection in perpetuity or there could be a new law to protect cultural expressions using guidelines


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