Lonely Planet Writer

Why you’ll be seeing more Māori place names pop up in Wellington

Visitors to Wellington will soon see a lot more te reo Māori (Māori language) around as the city aims to be the heart of indigenous culture in New Zealand and give new respect to its heritage.

More native place names will be seen around Wellington soon. Photo by Jacques van Dinteren/Getty Images

The language policy – named Te Tauihu after the figurehead carves into Māori canoes – was first voted into practice in June 2018 and its first act was to dub Wellington’s Civic Square Te Ngākau, meaning ‘the heart’. Since then, other places have been given new names in New Zealand’s native language.

The city’s waterfront is now called Ara Moana (ocean pathway) and the nearby Frank Kitts Park is now Whairepo Lagoon. Wellington Zoo is also following the example set by the city council by giving their zones bilingual names and they’ve also created a fun game for kids to learn the names of animals in Māori.

The campaign also wants to get people to use te reo Māori in shops and restaurants. Photo by andresr

The city spots reacquiring Māori names will continue to have English monikers too, they will simply be bilingual in a similar fashion to place names in some regions of Canada and Ireland. The eventual goal is for Wellington signs to be a te reo Māori city by 2040, the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi between local chiefs and representatives of the British crown.

The place names will give the language a chance to be “seen and heard much more around our capital city,” said Mayor Justin Lester in the policy document. “We want to lead the way in making the language a core part of the cultural fabric and identity of our city and we’re already making good progress.”

City Lab also reports that a Māori heritage trail is also in the works, as is the retelling of Māori legends in playgrounds and at Mount Victoria.