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Names of New Zealand islands 'illegal'

EXPERTS searching for alternative Maori names for New Zealand's two main islands were startled to find that their commonly used English names - North Island and South Island - were never made legal, officials said yesterday.

To repair the 200-year-old oversight, the country's Geographic Board, which assigns and approves names for all New Zealand places, said it would take steps to legally name the two South Pacific islands that make up more than 95 percent of the country's land mass.

The board had spent several years exploring a process for formally recognizing alternative Maori names for each island when it noticed that the islands had never been given official names, board chairman Don Grant said.

"We therefore want to formalize alternative Maori names and, at the same time, make the naming of North and South islands official," Grant said.

On early official maps and documents, the islands are marked with Maori names. North Island is labeled "Te Ika a Maui," meaning the fish of Maui, the Maori god of the sea. "Te Wai Pounamu," jade stone waters, for South Island, also appeared on early maps and documents.

South Island is also known locally as "the Mainland," while North Island is also called "Pig Island" for its population of wild pigs.


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