A column by National’s Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith on our country’s name resulted in an inundation of correspondence:
“The overwhelming reaction to my stance on the matter was incredibly positive from both those who want to retain New Zealand as our name and those who would like it changed to Aotearoa.
“What impacted me the most was the sheer number of people who expressed thanks that I was advocating for New Zealanders to be involved in making this decision. They told me they feel the Labour Government have been arrogant in changing it de facto without any public discussion.
“In my opinion piece I did not argue either for or against a name change. I believe that should not be up to politicians to decide. I argued for a conversation about it.
“Now, having heard from so many Kiwis, I am arguing for more. I say, the Government must put it to a referendum.
“The strength of feeling associated with this subject, no matter the perspective, necessitates that the Government must take it to the people as National did with the flag. Furthermore, Labour must be willing to accept the result as National did when New Zealand voted to retain the flag.
“Surely, Labour must be willing to listen to the people of New Zealand on this. They cannot go on thinking they are more enlightened and know better than the people they govern. They cannot go on demonising those who disagree with them.
“National says listen to the people and put it to a vote. Should we be New Zealand or Aotearoa?”
In the column which precipitated the correspondence, Smith said:
. . .Now, I am not seeking to make a judgement call about whether we should change our name or not. That is neither here nor there. I am simply giving voice to the argument that perhaps before the shift began to be put in motion, New Zealanders themselves should have been consulted.
It is presumptuous and disrespectful to make a decision of such cultural importance for the country without engaging all who live there. . .
As I see it, there is no right or wrong perspective. However, it is wrong for a public service and Government to decide a way forward with no regard for how New Zealanders think or feel about it. . .
Who’s name is it?
It’s the country’s name. It belongs to the country and by extension all its people. If it’s going to be changed, it should be at the will of the people through a referendum not by stealth by politicians or bureaucrats.