‘H’ steams ahead



Ngai Tahu’s going to push on with an application to officially add the ‘h’ to Whakatipu.

The iwi will begin to work through the process under the New Zealand Geographic Board in coming months.

Otakou Runaka representative Paulette Tamati-Elliffe, who is working on the name change, says the move is to have the name recognised by wider NZ and restore mana to the original name, which she says ‘‘has always’’ been Whakatipu Waimaori.







Ngai Tahu’s Ka Huru Manu, which is recognised by the NZ Geographic Board as an authoritative source of place names, states on its website, ‘‘Whakatipu Waimaori is the correctspelling for Lake Wakatipu’’.

There are four official names in the New Zealand Gazetteer which include ‘h’ in spelling
Whakatipu — Te Awa Whakatipu (the Dart River), Tarahaka Whakatipu (Harris Saddle), Whakatipu Ka Tuka (Hollyford River) and Whakatipu Waitai (Lake McKerrow).

‘Whakatipu’ is the undisputed traditional Maori spelling, but ‘Wakatipu’ has been employed since early European days.

‘It’s about restoring the mana of the name’

In November, 2020, Mountain Scene reported highly-respected Ngai Tahu elder Sir Tipene O’Regan signalled it was time for the spelling change.

Since then, local kaumatua Darren Rewi has been engaging the Queenstown community in library discussions about the history of the name and had planned to make an make an application to the NZ Geographic Board individually — with the support of Ngai Tahu — before the iwi decided recently they would handle the application themselves.

Tamati-Elliffe says Ngai Tahu’s already noticed a shift in Queenstown.

‘‘It’s just through that awareness around the history of the name, and its origins, that we’re seeing communities just really embrace the correct spelling,’’ she says.

The iwi is also looking at correcting other misspellings in the South Island including changing the official spelling of Tekapo to Takapo.

Tamati-Elliffe acknowledges a spelling change would be a wide undertaking and says it would be gradual.

‘‘I think we could look at Whanganui or Wanganui as an example, some businesses may have chosen to stick with the spelling that they knew … but in official documents the correct spelling needed to be used.

‘‘We’re not about telling businesses that they need to change the names, that’s  certainly not the intention, but again, it’s about restoring the mana of that name,’’ Tamati-Elliffe says.

The potential backlash from the community is ‘‘always forefront … because we’re used to resistance of anything kai tahu, anything Maori’’.

‘‘There are some sensitivities, and we need to ensure that we understand what it may stir.

‘‘But there’s a younger generation that are very courageous, open-minded and [have a] lot more awareness and understanding of the history of our country,’’ she says.

After the application’s submitted, there’ll be a public consultation process which could last about three months.

If there are objections the board can’t uphold, the Land Information Minister Damien O’Connor would make the final call.

Tamati-Elliffe expects work on the application to begin mid-to-late June.

Embracing the ‘h’

Early adopter: DoC’s Stanley St visitor centre was the first to adopt the ‘h’

Conversations around a spelling change began to gain traction in 2017 when the then-new Whakatipu Wildlife Trust used the correct Maori spelling, taking a leaf from  Department of Conservation (DoC), which had already signposted its Queenstown office Whakatipu-wai-Maori.

Businesses, trusts and groups around the resort that use the Maori spelling include Whakatipu Brewing, BNZ Whakatipu, Whakatipu-wai-Maori / DoC Queenstown Visitor Centre, Te Kura Whakatipu o Kawarau, Whakatipu Wildlife Trust, Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, Whakatipu Rowing Club and Whakatipu Music Festival.

Some are new entities which have included the ‘h’ from inception, others are already established and have made the effort to change.

Mountain Scene understands Wakatipu High School is currently discussing a spelling change at board of trustees level.