In the postwar years numerous former African and some Asian ex-colonies changed their name following independence.
With the African countries I’d be very surprised if the citizens were consulted, rather the new names were imposed by their invariably authoritarian governments.
Name changes for advanced long-established countries are unheard of but should such an event occur, it’s inconceivable it would happen without an endorsing referendum.
Thus in that sense, New Zealand governments of recent years have behaved in a manner more akin to despotic African nations in surreptitiously changing our country’s name without public consultation, let alone a referendum. I refer of course to Aotearoa.
I have long argued that New Zealand is a ridiculous name, unrelated to our history.
But so is Aotearoa, pleasant though it sounds, thanks to all the vowels. I do not want to explain, if asked, that I come from the land of the long white cloud. That’s embarrassing.
Pre-European maoris had no name for the country. As currently, people with some maori ancestry comprise only 15% of the population, unless the public endorse it in a referendum, a maori name would be unjustified.
Now here’s some interesting history. Recently I found my dozen past passports.
The first, issued six decades back by our government to me as a New Zealand born citizen was about 20% bigger than today’s passports, bore the New Zealand coat of arms centre-piece on the cover and in bold gold type above it, the words, “BRITISH PASSPORT”.
Below the coat of arms in a very much smaller typeface was printed “New Zealand”.
That simply reflected those days, New Zealanders back then being imbued in British culture and we felt British.
Another reflection of our sense of Britishness then was the back page in which was supposed to be recorded, as demanded at the top, “NON-STERLING FUNDS FOR TRAVELLING PURPOSES”.
About 1970 we dropped “BRITISH PASSPORT” from the cover but I note one issued to me in 1973 still had printed “BRITISH SUBJECT AND NEW ZEALAND CITIZEN” on page one, as with the earlier one. The next, issued in 1975 removed any reference to “British”.
Thereafter, sometime in the 1990s the passports were reduced in size but their covers bore the coat of arms and the two lines “NEW ZEALAND” and below the coat of arms, “Passport”.
Then about a decade back the front cover was changed, first abandoning gold lettering for silver and now printing “NEW ZEALAND PASSPORT” at the top with the words “Uruwhenua Aotearoa” below. I checked the meaning of “Uruwhenua” and found it translates as “Passport”. Now who would have guessed that pre-European maoris issued passports. It possibly explains the occasional hostility to settlers turning up without a visa.
And so it continues with today’s passports with New Zealand in English and the supposed maori word for Passport and Aotearoa underneath.
That utterly inappropriate Aotearoa nonsense did not turn up on its own accord, rather one or more public servants decided unasked on our behalf to make it an alternative name for New Zealand.
It began appearing on all government department signage, the lapdog media readily adopted it and today it’s ubiquitous.
I say it again. If the country is to change its name then that should not be done African despotic style but instead by a public referendum.
Some projections say our largest non-European group in New Zealand will soon be Chinese, something that hugely heartens me.
When that happens will the unnamed bureaucrats reflect that reality and print on our passport Nyoo Zealand, nyoo being Mandarin for “new”? and if not, why not?
Many long-established European countries’ names are now historically redundant but being well-established, are accepted without any cry to update them. That is a grown-up mature approach.
New Zealand is a well-established name even if historically absurd. My feeling is we should leave well along and I suspect in a referendum that would be the popular view.
But Aotearoa is equally historically inaccurate and as said, has been surreptitiously imposed by anonymous public servants without reference to the public. It’s time it stopped.