It’s official - New Zealand names main islands

New Zealand has officially named its two main islands - North and South Island - and recognised the original Māori names.

New Zealand has officially named its two main islands and recognised the original Māori names.

Land information Minister Maurice Williamson has announced the recorded English naming of the the North Island and South Island will now become official.

Although the names of the two main islands which make up New Zealand - the North Island and South Island - appear on maps, charts and official publications, the names of the two islands were never officially recorded and had no formal standing.

Extensive consultation
The decision to officially claim the names was made following a recommendation from the New Zealand Geographic Board who undertook extensive consultation in 2013.

"As an integral part of New Zealand’s cultural identity and heritage, it is only right the names North Island and South Island be made official under the New Zealand Geographic Board Act 2008. Minister Maurice Williamson says.

"I have also approved the Geographic Board recommendation to assign official alternative Māori names for the two islands….these Māori names also have historic and cultural significance and appeared on early maps and charts, including government maps, until the 1950s," Mr Williamson added.

Cultural significance
The North Island will now also be referred to as Te Ika-a-Māui - Fish of Maui. This name refers to the ancient Māori legend of Maui and his brothers who were said to have fished up the North Island of New Zealand from their canoe.

The South Island will now also now be known as Te Waipounamu - meaning the place of greenstone.

"My decision to assign alternative names means people can use whichever they prefer and they will not be forced to use both the English and Māori names together.

"Instead, everyone will have the choice to keep calling the islands what they always have, or use the assigned alternatives, or use both together if they wish," Mr Williamson says.

More information

Wellington's early Māori heritage

Maori Culture Guide

New Zealand Regions

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