Topics: Environment, Land

'Nigger' place names will be no more

By Peata Melbourne
  • South Island

Racist location names are being scrapped and replaced with Māori names following a complaint to the New Zealand Geographic Board earlier this year.

Three place names in North Canterbury containing the word ‘nigger’ will be changed to reflect the offence caused by that word.

Nigger Stream, near Arthur's Pass, will now officially be named Pūkio Stream after a native grass (Carex Secta) found in the area. Niggerhead, in the Southern Alps will be called Tāwhai Hill, after a species of native Beech Tree found in the South Island. Nigger Hill, to the east of Arthur's Pass, will be renamed Kānuka Hills after a species of native tea tree that grows in the area.

The names have been in use for 150 years and there is no well-known story behind why they were chosen.

“These names reflect a time when attitudes towards this word were markedly different to what they are now. It is a word that is clearly offensive to most people today, so I am pleased to make this decision,” Land Information Minister Louise Upston says.

“This isn’t about rewriting history – it is and will remain a matter of public record that these three places used to carry different names.

However, in a society like ours that is multicultural and where most New Zealanders do not go out of their way to be offensive or exclude others, I do not believe this word has a place in our official names.”

Changes to place names can be proposed by any member of the public and are considered by the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa.

The new names will be listed in the Gazetteer, the official record of New Zealand place names, on Thursday 15 December 2016.

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