Council likely to change its spelling of Wakatipu

Sir Tipene O'Regan
Sir Tipene O'Regan
The name "Wakatipu" is likely to be updated on signs, buildings and open spaces around the Queenstown area to reflect traditional Māori spelling and pronunciation.

In November, Ngai Tahu elder Sir Tipene O’Regan said it was time to update and correct the historically inaccurate name given by European settlers to the southern lake.

The correct spelling, "Whakatipu", is pronounced in English as if with a "ph" at the start.

Queenstown Lakes district councillors are due to meet today to vote on a wellbeing strategy that includes a desire to connect with Māori in the district and reinforce the aims of the council’s Māori language policy adopted last year.

This included using te reo in documentation, signs, public building names and open spaces.

Asked if this would extend to updating Wakatipu, a council spokesman said it was policy to defer to mana whenua and original spellings, "so there is likely to be a move towards this".

He added te reo would be used in conjunction with English for place names, such as jointly naming the Luggate Memorial Centre, Whare Mahana and signs would be updated as part of scheduled maintenance.

Sir Tipene previously said not only was Whakatipu the traditional Māori spelling for the lake, but also Dart River (Te Awa Whakatipu), Hollyford River and Valley (Whakatipu Katuka) and Harris Saddle (Tarahaka Whakatipu).

He said nobody was "running around getting offended" by the incorrect spelling, but it did need changing.

Ngai Tahu kaumatua Darren Rewi, of Queenstown, is to hold a public seminar at Frankton Library next Thursday to discuss the etymology of the word.

Wakatipu is often used to describe the area encompassing Queenstown, Arrowtown, Kingston and Glenorchy.

The area’s only secondary school is called Wakatipu High School.

The council spokesman said staff were encouraged to learn te reo.

"While the learning of te reo Māori is not compulsory, its use is actively encouraged among QLDC staff."