New Zealand may be getting an official name change in our lifetime. The New Zealand Parliament might change the country’s name to Aotearoa, which is Māori for “long white cloud,” and restore cities and towns to their original Māori names.
Shedding the island’s colonial names could sustainably boost its tourism industry. When historically marginalized communities reclaim leadership of their lands, destinations often realize substantial benefits, which can include new marketing opportunities, improved destination management, higher visitor numbers and a better experience for visitors and residents.
The discussion to change the country’s names kicked off when the Māori Party launched a petition to officially rename the country Aotearoa last year. The petition also called on Parliament to begin a collaborative process to officially restore the original Māori names for all towns, cities and places across the country by 2026.
The petition has collected more than 70,000 signatures and will be considered by a parliamentary committee that could recommend a vote in Parliament, put it to a nationwide referendum or not take action.
A significant share of the public desires some change to the country’s name. Over 40 percent said they want to replace it with Aotearoa or include Aotearoa in the official name, while nearly 60 percent want to keep the name, according to a 2021 1News Colmar Brunton poll.