[lg policy] New Zealand could replace 'racist' place names

Fierman, William wfierman at indiana.edu
Fri Oct 23 15:57:35 UTC 2015

New Zealand could replace 'racist' place names

Three racially offensive place names in New Zealand could be replaced under proposals put to the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB).

NZGB said a member of the public suggested changing the "discriminatory and derogatory" names of the places, all of which feature a racist term.

All three are in North Canterbury, in the Southern Alps on South Island.

The public will have three months to give their views on changing the titles of the remote areas.

"These proposals were made by a member of the public who was concerned that these particular names did not show New Zealand in a good light, being in poor taste and causing offence," NZGB Secretary Wendy Shaw told the BBC.

If accepted, Niggerhead would become Tawhai Hill and Nigger Hill would become Kanuka Hills - both named after native trees. Nigger Stream would become Steelhead Stream - named after a local trout species.

The proposed new names were put forward by the same person that requested the current names be dropped. The person is not thought to be local to the area, although as it is extremely remote, very few people are.

The places are all uninhabited geographical features, not towns

NZGB said that while they had not been able to pin down exactly how or when the places got their names, two have appeared on maps since the 1860s, and the third from the 1910s.

They said the word may have come from a colloquial name for a type of tussock known as makura, or pukio in te reo in the Maori language.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The area, in the Southern Alps, is remote and unpopulated, which may explain why the names have survived for so long

NZGB is seeking opinions on several other name changes too, including altering the spelling of South Otago's Tokomairiro river to Tokomairaro - which it says is the correct Maori spelling - and changing the name of Rainbow Mountain to Maunga Kakaramea.

The consultations will not take the form of a vote. Instead, the NZGB's board will base its decisions primarily on the views it receives from the public.

Although the changes may strike many as long overdue, reports in 2010 quoted government officials saying that they were not aware of complaints about the names, nor of plans to change them.

It is not the only place in New Zealand, to have a seemingly offensive name. There are several places with "Darkies" in their title on the west coast of South Island.

They are seemingly references to a 19th Century African American gold prospector known as 'Darkie' Addison, according to Radio New Zealand.
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