Change of place names

It is possible to change a place name but this change has to be approved by the Geographical Board. Many people who live in Poverty Bay are unhappy with the name. The word “poverty” is the noun from “poor”. Poverty Bay today is rich in food and culture.

Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand in 1769 in this bay on the east coast of the North Island. Of course, he wanted fresh food and water for his crew after a long voyage from Tahiti.

Local Maori gazed at this strange ship and the white people who came to shore. The locals were probably frightened. Unfortunately, some of the crew on Cook’s ship fired guns in the air, above the heads of the Maori on the shore but one Maori was killed. Cook and his crew had to leave in a hurry without food or water. Cook therefore wrote “Poverty Bay” on his map. The next bay where they had better luck, Cook called it Bay of Plenty.

About 2000 local people made submissions last weekend to the Geographical Board to change the name “Poverty Bay” to the original Maori name Turanganui-a-kiwa. This name gives honour to one of the first Maori, Kiwa, to come to New Zealand.

It is possible to change a place name. Abel Tasman who was the first European to sail around New Zealand and draw a map, named a Nelson bay Murderer’s Bay, for a very good reason in 1642. After gold was discovered in that bay in the 19th century, it was renamed Golden Bay.

Many places in New Zealand were named after famous British military men or aristocrats like the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Auckland is named after the Earl of Auckland, an aristocrat who provided some money for a ship which brought European settlers to Auckland in the nineteenth century.

New Zealand places have a mixture of English and Maori names with probably more Maori than English, especially names of rivers.


• approved – said “yes”
• submissions – wrote good reasons for changing the name
• gazed – looked for a long time
• aristocrats are members of the British aristocracy. They have titles like Lord, Lady, Duke, Earl. The title is hereditary which means it is handed down from one generation to the next, usually through the oldest son.
Note the idiom, named after someone.

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