WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Experts searching for alternative
Maori names for New Zealand's two main islands were startled to
find that their commonly used English names - North Island and
South Island - were never made legal, officials said Tuesday.
To repair the 200-year-old oversight, the country's Geographic
Board, which assigns and approves names for all New Zealand places,
said it would take steps to legally name the two South Pacific
islands that make up more than 95 percent of the country's land
The board had spent several years exploring a process for
formally recognizing alternative Maori names for each island when
it noticed that the islands had never been given official names,
board chairman Don Grant said.
"We therefore want to formalize alternative Maori names and, at
the same time, make the naming of ... North and South Islands
official," Grant said.
On early official maps and documents, North and South islands
are marked with Maori names. North Island is labeled "Te Ika a
Maui," meaning the fish of Maui, the Maori god of the sea. South
Island was called "Te Wai Pounamu," jade stone waters, for South
Island - appeared on early official maps and documents.
The board's research also shows Maori names for the islands
appeared on the very earliest maps and charts, including those of
English explorer, Captain James Cook, who first visited in 1769.
South Island, the larger of the pair, is also known locally as
"the Mainland," while North Island, where three-quarters of the
population lives, is also called "Pig Island," partly for the
wild pigs that Cook brought during a visit and that still roam in