• Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says there's a strong appetite for change. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
Duelling polls from parties on the opposite ends of the political spectrum have put New Zealanders' appetite for "Aotearoa" to the test.
Source:
AAP
23 Sep 2021 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 23 Sep 2021 - 4:36 PM

If the willingness of Kiwis to sign a petition is any guide, New Zealand is set for a name change.

The Maori Party's bid to rebadge the country, 10 days on, has more than 60,000 New Zealanders in support.

"There's a strong appetite for change," co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer tells AAP.

"People want to build our nationhood. Te reo Maori (the Maori language) is a big part of that."

On the other side of the ledger are the traditionalists.

A counter-petition launched by Winston Peters' New Zealand First party hasn't fared so well, with fewer than 15,000 signatures after six days.

"The petition is going fine. It's not a race," Mr Peters told AAP.

Mr Peters, Jacinda Ardern's former deputy prime minister, has come out of the political wilderness this month.

His defence of the name New Zealand, given to the South Pacific islands by Dutch explorers and cartographers in the 1600s, is one of the reasons why.

"It's not a race because in the end, it's a question about the mandate to make all these changes," he said.

"(New Zealanders) support the position in the way they did when John Key tried to change the flag. He put an enormous amount of money into it and it failed."

New Zealand's flag referendum of 2016 - which resulted in 57 per cent supporting the existing ensign with union jack and red-starred Southern Cross - was the last major question of nationhood thrown to Kiwis.

The Maori Party are shooting for 100,000 signatures and will table their petition in parliament to try and force the issue.

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That is where the process is likely to end, as Ms Ardern has little appetite to entertain the change, even if she supports an unofficial dual name policy.

"We've got no plans to go through an official process to change the name," Ms Ardern said.

"Of course, te reo Maori is an official language and so therefore we use those names interchangeably and I think we should continue to do so."

Ms Ngarewa-Packer believes the time will come for an official change - and that Labour's Maori MPs could force the government's hands.

"Labour has more Maori in government than we've ever had ... we're going to encourage them and hold them to account," she said.

"We are in parliament to push the boundaries, to push the thinking, to extend our thinking.

"We see the absolute desperation of iwi (Maori communities) around the country trying to restore their ancestral and historical names that were removed during the colonisation period.

"We will create a place where iwi and government can talk about ourselves and our history. That will become a forum for unity for Aotearoa ... fostering a sense of pride and connectivity."

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