Tauranga MP weighs in on Aotearoa debate
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges does not believe the word Aotearoa should be banned from official use.
However, he believes a referendum would be needed if it is to be adopted as part of, or a replacement for, New Zealand, as the official name of the country.
The Māori Party launched a petition last week, spearheaded by co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, with the aim of changing the nation’s name to Aotearoa and implementing the use of te reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places by 2026.
At the time of writing, the petition has roughly 60,000 signatures.
Winston Peters and NZ First countered with a petition to keep the name New Zealand whilst the Hobson’s Pledge lobby group went a step further, launching a petition calling on Aotearoa to be removed from official use until a referendum took place.
The petition, led by former ACT Party leader Don Brash and former police officer Casey Costello, also calls on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to denounce Aotearoa and publicly state that the official name of the nation is New Zealand.
Bridges, however, does not believe the name should be banned from official use. That being said, he believes a referendum, such as those in November-December 2015 and March 2016 to decide the future of New Zealand’s flag, is the only way any official name change should be implemented.
“I don't think Aotearoa should be banned,” he says.
“It's a free world and people can use what they want.
“But if it's going to become part of our nation's official name, or the only word as a replacement for New Zealand, then it should be subject to a referendum.
“We had one on our flag and our official name is every bit as important.”
On a personal note, the National Party MP says he would prefer it if the name stayed the same.
“For me personally, I prefer what I have grown up with, just simple New Zealand,” he states.
“After all, I consider myself a New Zealander first and foremost.”