Racist place names to be changed

New Zealand is set to rid of its racist place names in the South Island.

Three place names in North Canterbury containing the word ``nigger'' will be changed due to the offence caused by the word.

Taupo MP Louise Upston.
Louise Upston.

Nigger Stream, near Arthur's Pass, will now officially be named Pukio Stream after a native grass found in the area.

Niggerhead, located above Lake Sumner, will be called Tawhai Hill after a species of native beech tree found in the South Island.

Nigger Hill, to the east of Arthur's Pass, will be renamed Kanuka Hills after a species of native tea tree that grows in the area.

Land Information Minister Louise Upston said the original names reflect ``a time when attitudes towards this word were markedly different to what they are now''.

She said it was a word ``clearly offensive to most people'' today, so she was pleased to make the decision.

The minister added that the name change was not about rewriting history - ``it is and will remain a matter of public record that these three places used to carry different names''.

``However, in a society like ours that is multicultural and where most New Zealanders do not go out of their way to be offensive or exclude others, I do not believe this word has a place in our official names.''

Earlier this year in April, the proposed name changes came up against some objection.

The Geographic Board referred the decision on whether to adopt new names for Niggerhead and Nigger Hill to Upston because 61 of the 223 submissions had objected to the changes.

Chair of the Geographic Board Mark Dyer said the reasons for objections varied.

``Some submissions sought the retention of the existing names and some supported names other than those proposed.''

Changes to place names can be proposed by any member of the public and are considered by the New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa.

The new names will be listed in the Gazetteer, the official record of New Zealand place names, next Thursday.

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