Call to put an ‘h’ into Wakatipu

A sign on the Department of Conservation’s Stanley St visitor centre in Queenstown. PHOTO: PHILIP...
A sign on the Department of Conservation’s Stanley St visitor centre in Queenstown. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Ngai Tahu elder Sir Tipene O’Regan says it is time we put an "h" in "Wakatipu".

"Whakatipu" is the undisputed Maori spelling.

"Wakatipu" has been employed since early European days and pops up, well, just about everywhere in the Queenstown Lakes district.

"I don’t think anyone’s running around getting offended but we would certainly prefer to have a clear public understanding and throw a bit of effort into public awareness," Sir Tipene said.

"We can only take on so many scraps at once, but [correcting the misspellings of] Wakatipu and Tekapo [Takapo] will be, I think, the next two coming up."

Sir Tipene said Whakatipu was not just the correct name for Queenstown’s main lake (Whakatipu Waimaori), but also appeared in the Maori names for other local landmarks such as Dart River (Te Awa Whakatipu), Hollyford River and valley (Whakatipu Katuka) and Harris Saddle (Tarahaka Whakatipu).

Whakatipu was also used in Ngai Tahu’s cultural mapping project, which Sir Tipene said was regarded as an authoritative source by the New Zealand Geographic Board.

Publicity about Whakatipu first surfaced three years ago, with the naming of the then-new Whakatipu Wildlife Trust.

It took a lead from the Department of Conservation, whose Queenstown visitor centre was signposted "Whakatipu-wai-Maori".

At the time, Otago regional councillor Michael Laws, who had been mayor of Wanganui when the geographic board added "h" to it, said it was "madness" to change the spelling of Wakatipu.

Whakatipu has been used for BNZ’s new Five Mile Partners Centre, which received a Maori blessing on Monday.

Local Ngai Tahu kaumatua Darren Rewi said the bank consulted him.

"I said the proper spelling is with the "h", so if you want to have a relationship with iwi, it’s best to have it there."

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult believed adding an "h" was "worthy of a discussion".

"If that is the way [Maori] are spelling it, then we need to have a look at it, and decide whether we want to change.

"Frankly, I would probably think that it will take some time.

"There’ll be those who like it, there’ll be those who don’t like it, but it will be interesting to hear some views."

Destination Queenstown acting chief executive Ann Lockhart said if there was a move towards honouring the original spelling, DQ would support that.


"Whakatipu" is the undisputed Maori spelling. But Maori didn't have a written language so how does he work that out?



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