National's Aotearoa referendum call slammed

National MP Stuart Smith. Photo: RNZ
National MP Stuart Smith. Photo: RNZ
All other parties in Parliament have rubbished National's suggestion a referendum should be held on whether New Zealand should be called Aotearoa.

National MP Stuart Smith made a statement yesterday saying New Zealanders should get the chance to vote on the idea, and this morning he took it a step further, saying the name Aotearoa should be banned from all official documents.

"I can't understand why the government can't have the confidence in their own position to actually go to the public, unlike John Key," he said, alluding to the ill-fated referendum held on changing New Zealand's flag.

Smith said the idea of a referendum was very popular "judging by my inbox" after he penned an opinion article on Stuff last week, arguing the point. In it, he said there had been "an increasing spotlight placed on significant changes to how our government enacts the Crown responsibility to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi".

Smith was backed by his leader Judith Collins.

"I think Stuart's making a very good point and ... certainly we're hearing that around that people are saying 'we want to have a debate on this'.

"I think it's probably something we could go to a referendum on and ask what people want. People are starting to get I think quite tetchy about it, and they're feeling like that because they're not being included in the debate."

She said her concern was the public was not being consulted.

Te Paati Māori leader Rawiri Waititi. Photo: RNZ
Te Paati Māori leader Rawiri Waititi. Photo: RNZ
Te Paati Māori leader Rawiri Waititi wrote an accompanying response to Smith's article, saying what Smith saw as 'change' was about the return to the intention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and not about race or apartheid.

This afternoon he said questioning the use of the name Aotearoa was absurd.

"I find it absolutely absurd and I think he needs his head checked ... it is the name of this country, Aotearoa, and so many of us identify with Aotearoa and I encourage every government department and everybody else out there to continue to use it."

He noted that the name 'New Zealand' was not taken to a referendum, and "back in 1840, where Pākehā were in the minority, I'm sure they would have lost that referendum".

He said the rhetoric was unhelpful and divisive.

Idea 'entirely ridiculous'

Government MPs also sneered at the idea. Labour's Andrew Little said it was entirely ridiculous and did not need to go to a referendum.

"Good grief. It happens to be a name that most New Zealanders commonly understand is an alternative name for New Zealand.

Andrew Little. File photo
Andrew Little. File photo
"I think custom and practice allows us to use it whenever we like."

Kris Faafoi was similarly dismissive.

"I try not to read anything that Stuart Smith writes ... because I don't think it's worth my time."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was nonplussed.

"Obviously Aotearoa is increasingly popularly used by the people of Aotearoa and I'm very comfortable with it," he said.

ACT leader David Seymour was full of support for National, his party's traditional coalition partner, when it came to the results of Sunday's poll, but that support stopped short on speech regulation.

"Ultimately the Māori Language Act 1987 ... says that Māori is a language of New Zealand. If people want to call it Aotearoa then that's up to them. I prefer New Zealand but I would think New Zealand has bigger issues today than policing what people call the country."

He did not think a referendum was needed.

"Private organisations every day - the Olympic committee, the rugby union, Vodafone, Discovery TV - they can decide what to call it, just like you and I every day. I'm not in favour of trying to force everybody to use particular language. The ACT party favours free speech."

"I just think, ultimately, Stuart Smith needs to focus on bigger issues."

Smith admitted that polling had not been done on the name 'New Zealand', but said it was "the established name".

"It's on all official documents ... If you're gonna change what is the status quo then you need to ask the people and I actually wonder why they don't have the confidence to do that. John Key did, and he had the good grace to accept what people said."


View all

That would cost millions in taxpayer money.

Have you seen the billions upon billions handed out for all sorts of nonsense by this Government recently? Have you seen the ten's of thousand new government advisors or the hundreds of new PR advisors to Government? How much does that cost for no benefit (incidentally this is in part why Hipkins said they cant pay the nurses more). If it was all tallied up and presented on paper New Zealanders would have a fit. A few millions for democracy isnt a big deal with Jacinda gifted $2.75M to the mob to do his gardens. Radio NZ or TV1 call our country Aotearoa (not even the bilingual two names) all the time. Thats not my country nor the one my family went to war for. It is also not what the atlas calls us. It is time for a conversation about this, rather than a name change by stealth. It is time to create one united country not a separatist one this government wants.

Pinkney - only believe half what you read from the ant govt media, stop listening to talkback callers & delete the right wing emails you are clearly getting. Your comments are parroted from other junk bandied around.
There are not all those advisors. The working groups - one of which I'm on - are non political and we don't get paid. All govt spending is scrutinised and there is a cost benefit ratio checked upon. Nurses are actually well paid compared to other hard working NZers who can't get their pay rise. They are pulling the heart strings of the nature of their work. while paramedics, pharmacists are on a heck of a lot less. Other hospital workers are just as vital are on minimum wage. Hence Nzers would rather be on benefit. So see the wider picture.
Jacinda did not gift $ to te mob. This was an extension to a program the Nats started.It was not taxpayer $ but money the police had confiscated from gangs. If the program works, its worth it eh.
The use of lingo is media driven. There is no direction by govt.
Any other anto govt rants you want me to correct, please feel free to articulate them..

Oh "John Key did, and he had the good grace to accept what people said."

No he didn't, he had no choice as it was binding. A better example would be referendums like asset sales , mmp, anti smacking etc . The only referendum result key "had the good grace to accept what people said" was the one that was binding. In every other xase he ignored the peoples wishes.

Waste of space and unnecessary. Nothing wrong with New Zealand., just stick with that instead of making names up.

I think we should form a sub committee
I think we should have a nationwide hui (that is, meetings)
I think we should look into it
I think I need to get to the bottom of this

you know all those Kiwi things we do
Oh i forgot . . .
I think we should go to a marketing consultant

What do you do when you are rock bottom in the polls??
Sink further.
I cannot understand even 28% of people supporting that lot.

You'd think National would have learned their lesson with John Key's disastrous $60 million flag referendum.
But then again, what is increasingly clear is that National doesn't learn lessons from their failures. It seems their philosophy is to approach issues in the following way: "that approach didn't work for us last time but kiwis are dumb so let's try it again".
Seems your average kiwi isre not as dumb as National party MPs.

I'm happy to use either or both names

I recall reading that Aotearoa originally only referred to the North Island. If it's about the Treaty, as Rawiri Waititi says, then he should perhaps be aware that the name used was Nu Tirani. (It was the same, with unregularised spelling, Nu Tireni, in the 1835 Declaration of Independence.)

View all

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter