7 Apr 2009

Wanganui to vote on the 'h' question

3:35 pm on 7 April 2009

The people of Wanganui are to get a say on whether the town should be spelt with an 'h'.

Wanganui district councillors voted on Monday to ask citizens whether they prefer the city and district to be spelled Wanganui or Whanganui.

They've also decided to hire an historian to research the issue and help provide impartial information to voters.

Ten days ago, the Geographic Board ruled that the current spelling (without an 'h') was a 150-year-old mistake and invited public submissions before a final recomendation and a decision by the Minister of Lands Information.

Many councillors at Monday's meeting questioned the impartiality and accuracy of the board's finding and voted to seek legal advice over its process. Other councillors questioned the council's impartiality.

The sole Whanganui River iwi member on the Wanganui District Council says Maori will view it as racist if the 'h' is not included in the city's name. Rangi Wills says it is disrespectful to insist the issue go to a vote.

Wanganui mayor Michael Laws is scathing of the Board's finding that Wanganui's name was never properly gazetted and has no official standing. Local research has found a Wellington's Provincial Council Act naming the town Wanganui (without an 'h') in 1854.