The New Zealand Geographic Board has decided the city of Wanganui should have the letter 'h' added to its name.
Iwi group Te Runanga o Tupoho applied to the board to have the city's name officially changed to Whanganui.
In its decision released on Monday, the board said there was a valid case made to change the spelling of the city's name and has opened up the issue for public consultation.
It says Wanganui was spelled incorrectly and has never been formally gazetted, therefore is not currently an official New Zealand place name.
The Whanganui hapu that applied to have an 'h' added to the spelling of Wanganui City says it is elated the Geographic Board supports the change.
The hapu board Te Runanga o Tupoho argue the city and district's name is spelled wrongly - without an 'h' after the 'w'.
The board will gazette a change to the spelling in six weeks, opening three months of public submissions to allow a fuller debate, before finalising its decision in December.
A spokesperson for Te Runanga o Tupoho, Ken Mair, says it is fantastic that the board decided their argument was correct.
Mr Mair says red herrings and racism will emerge through the submissions process, but he is confident the board will finally confirm its stance that Wanganui needs an 'h'.
Leaders reject ruling
Wanganui mayor Michael Laws says the board is recommending the end of 170 years of history and is seeking to destroy the city's culture and heritage.
Mr Laws says the decision is a direct attack on the city and its citizens, and will be resisted.
Deputy mayor Dot McKinnon says the majority of residents want the current name retained.