20 Jun 2018

Regional council votes to add 'h' to Wanganui

5:48 pm on 20 June 2018

The Manawatū-Wanganui Regional Council has voted to add an 'h' to the spelling of its name.

Looking up stream of the wide and still Manawatū river.

Looking up stream of the wide and still Manawatū river. Photo: 123rf

The council, known as Horizons Regional Council, adopted the change as part of its long-term plan which was approved today.

Its application to the Geographic Board to change the region's name will also include adding a macron above the 'u' in Manawatū.

Corporate services manager Craig Grant said the decision would bring the council into line with Whanganui city and the Whanganui district which had already adopted the 'h'.

"It naturally followed that we needed to go to the community and see if they wanted to change the regional name which encompasses a much bigger chunk of the North Island than just the district or city."

The change came after the council considered more than 500 submissions and heard from more than 80 submitters on its long-term plan, many more than it normally received.

Mr Grant said submissions on the name change were not clear cut.

"The submissions were split and there were both a group of people for it and a group against it. So those submissions or the results of those submissions will be forwarded to the Geographic Board along with the application that Horizons Regional Council is putting through to them."

Mr Grant said iwi reaction was also mixed.

"There are many iwi groups across the region. I'm sorry I can't give you the exact figures but I'm sure the views there were just as divided. Though in general there was support for the change."

Mr Grant said if the application was accepted he would expect the name change to be slowly rolled out across the region -- starting with the council.

"Any other company or business that has the spelling as it currently stands would need to consider on an individual basis whether they changed the spelling or not."

A member of Whanganui iwi welcomed the move.

Veteran activist and community leader Ken Mair said the council should be acknowledged for making the change.

"Well in correcting the spelling of Whanganui, that is adding the letter 'h' back into Whanganui from our point of view that's the correct thing to do in regards of respecting our name."

Mr Mair said the reality was that the majority of institutions in the region had adopted the correct spelling some time ago.

"Over 10 years ago it was a highly sensitive issue for some people who clearly didn't understand the importance of our name and spelling our name correctly but 10 years later that's normalised and that was always our expectation.

"There are still some organisations, institutions and individuals who don't get it but they're in the minority now."

But Palmerston North RSA secretary Gordon Smith said he could not see the point of adding the 'h' to the region's spelling.

"What's that going to do for anyone? I think it's a load of rubbish to be quite honest but I mean it's up to them isn't it, they're the people organising it.

"If they think they've got the public behind them I guess they've got the public behind them. I haven't heard anything much about that."

Mr Smith acknowledged the change had been made elsewhere.

"It's been done everywhere else hasn't it? I'm not sure that it's right to be quite honest but if that's what they want to do they can do it.

"It fails to bother me one way or the other to be quite honest."

Retreat planned for Anzac Parade

Meanwhile, the council also adopted a proposal to set aside $50,000 annually to buy and remove, or raise homes on flood-prone Anzac Parade in Whanganui.

Group manager river management Ramon Strong said the move sent a signal about how the council saw the future of Anzac Parade.

"We're really indicating a long-term strategy direction here that says it is not sustainable to put more funding into flood protection for that particular part of Whanganui.

"This is the best strategy, this is the way forward."

Mr Strong admitted at this level of funding it meant any retreat from Anzac Parade would be a slow process.

He said he was still hopeful of getting further funding from central government and the insurance industry.

Mr Strong said any house sales would be voluntary and in the first instance the funding could be adequate to lift homes on the fringes of the worst flood prone parts of the street.

As part of its long-term plan council also proposes investing $4.9 million over 30 years to improve control structures on the lower reaches of the Whanganui River.