Today saw two of the most predictable stories of recent times appear in the news.

Sometimes you open up a news website (or, for those of us of a certain age, flick through the pages of a "newspaper") and experience a genuine moment of "wow!"

I mean, who of us will ever forget where we were when we first read: "It's a boy!"? Let alone what we were wearing when we discovered his name was to be "George"?

Then again, there are some occasions on which a story appears and you just have to think "well, that was always going to happen", shrug, and carry on with your life as before. Today we had two of those in short succession.

The first was the news that the District Court has found Davina Murray guilty of smuggling contraband to convicted murderer and rapist Liam Reid in prison. Whilst Murray's in court theatrics, as well as the revelation of her somewhat-more-than-professional regard for her client, proved entertaining to observers, the case was always going to end in only one way.

I mean, she bought an i-Phone and call-plan, using her own drivers licence for ID. That i-Phone turned up in Reid's possession in jail. So even if there was some prison guard conspiracy to get Reid in trouble (as Murray alleged), exactly how did they get hold of the new i-Phone she had just bought ... and why didn't she notice it had gone missing before it turned up in his possession?

So ... no surprises there. The only suspense is in regards how heavy a book the Judge will throw at Murray when he rejects her application to be discharged without conviction.

As for the second story that was always going to be, the New Zealand Geographic Board has announced its recommendation that the two main islands of New Zealand carry the official names of either the "North Island" or "Te Ika-a-Maui"; and the "South Island" or "Te Waipounamu".

Given the process that the Board must follow when deciding on official names - a process I outlined here, at the time of the great "H in Whanganui's name" debate - this was always going to be the outcome. The Board was virtually obliged to adopt the Maori terms for the islands as an "official name", whilst the widespread use of the English terms meant it would be futile to deny these an equivalent status. So, as with Aoraki/Mt Cook, or Taranaki/Mt Egmont, or Whanganui/Wanganui, we have one of those pragmatic outcomes that tries to make everyone happy by letting them do whatever they want.

It's also worth reprising from my earlier post exactly what effect this recommendation (once the Minister adopts it) will have;

The only legal effect of an "official name" being designated for a geographical feature is that it "must be used in all official documents."Official documents" then mean "a published document created by a public office or by a local authority in the course of business", or privately published "geographic and scientific publications and manuscripts" and "publications intended for travellers or tourists".

So any sons (or daughters) of the soil who are worried that they may be imprisoned for calling the better bit of NZ "the Mainland", or any Maori traditionalists who worry that the State has outlawed referring to the northern parts of NZ as "Aotea", can relax. You can keep on calling these places whatever you want - so long as you aren't trying to tell tourists what they are called.

Comments (4)

by Chris de Lisle on August 01, 2013
Chris de Lisle

Why has the board named them "North Island" and "south Island" rather than "the North Island" and "the South Island"? Nobody uses the former terms.

by Graeme Edgeler on August 01, 2013
Graeme Edgeler

Why has the board named them "North Island" and "south Island" rather than "the North Island" and "the South Island"?

I don't think I've ever seen a map which had "The North Island" on it. There may be some, but I think "North Island" is more common.

by Andrew Geddis on August 01, 2013
Andrew Geddis

What Graeme said.

by Eric Dutton on August 02, 2013
Eric Dutton

Why has the board named them "North Island" and "south Island" rather than "the North Island" and "the South Island"? Nobody uses the former terms.

The problem being ignored here is that the two main islands never had generally accepted names at all.  That's why we use the definite article and refer to them as the north island and the south island.  Language evolves of course, and the two expressions have acquired some of the characteristics of proper names.  For instance, we invariably capitalise them.  It is not unusual for cartographers to omit the definite article when designing maps.  Think of the Transvaal, the Czech Republic, or the Bay of Plenty, where english speakers invariably use the definite article, and cartographers do not.

More interesting is what will we call the existing North Island and South Island (one in the Hauraki Gulf and the other in Foveaux Strait).  Small and insignificant they may be, but hey the small and insignificant have rights which are important to our wellbeing as a democracy.  Let's hear it for the wee guys.


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