WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's two main islands have never been formally named due to a clerical oversight lasting 200 years despite being universally known as the North and South Islands, officials said on Thursday.
The New Zealand Geographic Board said the names had appeared on maps since European settlement began in the early 1800s but had never been formally recognised.
After public consultations, the board is now proposing two names each for the islands, one in English and one in the indigenous Maori language.
"The overwhelming majority of public submitters wanted the choice to use the English or Maori names," board chairman Don Grant said.
The English version will be the widely used North and South Islands.
The Maori names put forward by the board are Te Waipounamu - meaning rivers of green stone - for the South Island and Te Ika-a-Maui - the fish of Maui (a Maori god) - for the North.
The board said both the English and Maori names will be able to be used on official documents and maps.
The change is expected to be formally adopted later this year.