Wanganui District Council Wanganui spreads along the lower reaches of the Whanganui River

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'The Naming of Wanganui': Historian Diana Beaglehole - New report queries NZ Geographic board assumptions - 18/05/2009

Mayor Michael Laws today released a council-commissioned report by eminent historian Diana Beaglehole that queries the history and the rationale used by the NZ Geographic Board to change the name of 'Wanganui' to 'Whanganui'.

On 6 April 2009, the Wanganui District Council resolved to commission an independent review of the historical sources and literature relating to the original naming of Wanganui – and whether the name was misspelt to exclude the 'h'.

"This report clearly concludes that the early settlers and missionaries spelt Wanganui correctly, and that was the original spelling. It also is clear that the unique Maori phonetics of the local tribes intended the 'h' to be excluded. They had their own dialect, and still do.

"Without a written language, Maori was an oral society. The early missionaries, translators and settlers correctly recorded that in their naming of the settlement, river and district."

The Beaglehole Report also concludes that a number of early histories made mistakes by adding the 'h' to the name Wanganui, and that these have been simply recycled over successive generations and to the present day.

The report will go to the full council meeting this coming Friday. Mayor Laws said that it is likely to form the basis for the council’s submission to the NZ Geographic Board and to the Minister of Lands.

'Referendum '09' concludes on Thursday of this week and the full results – including the public vote on the naming of Wanganui – will also be available at Friday's meeting.

The Beaglehole Report also makes plain that Wanganui does have an official and legal status – and that any error in recording such was made by previous geographic boards and not by the oversight of locals or the legislature.

Read the full report
Diana Beaglehole's CV

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