Initially, the Pa Ariki suggested the idea to only change the Maori name, Kuki Airani – a coined word with no meaning, and leave “Cook Islands”.
But the Ariki together decided on changing the name completely rather than a surrogate name.
This was put to the advisory committee, which currently comprise 20 members, and they agreed on the proposal to drop “Cook Islands” for a new Maori name for the country.
“This change is being driven by the House of Ariki, a legislated body attached to government made up of 24 tribal leaders from across all of the Cook Islands with its constitutional role to advise government on matters pertaining to culture and custom,” the statement said.
“In its role as House of Ariki, it has established a name change advisory committee tasked with two objectives. One being the collection and choice of suitable name(s) and secondly to ensure the process for legislative change is followed.
“This will be a long drawn out process to ensure consultation and agreement with what we call the three pillars of our society. The House of Ariki, our traditional leaders, the government, our legislated constitutional body the Religious Advisory Council, our religious leaders and last but not least the people of the Cook Islands.”
The tentative process forward will involve the closing date for names, to be set, names decided upon by the Ariki and Tumu Korero (historian) from around the Cook Islands, the statement said.
The proposed name will then be referred to the people for a referendum before it is taken to Cabinet and Parliament for constitutional changes to allow as many people and sectors of the community to voice their opinion and contribute to the name change.
“So far the Naming Advisory Committee has been established under the direction of the House of Ariki and we are looking to bring more skills in as we progress,” the statement said.
“Names are being called for and submitted to the committee with over 64 names submitted so far though we expect close to double that amount when we have decided on a cut-off date.
“Though April has been talked about as a cut-off date, we will extend this as needed. Then our Ariki and Tumu Korero will work on selecting suitable name or names for tentative public referendum and then to Parliament.”
The committee chairman Danny Mataroa said the name changing process was a long journey but one they feel is long overdue.
“We recognise that there is a mood for change. It is time that we stood proud in our own name, a name chosen by us, for us and in our own language, that captures all of who we are and better represents our language our culture and our people to the rest of the world. An English Naval Captain, I don’t think so,” Mataroa said.
Naming Advisory Committee (current members) – Tou Ariki – Head of House of Ariki, Pa Marie Ariki, Minister George Maggie (Minister for House of Ariki), Puna Rakanui, Danny Mataroa, Paul Allsworth - Head of Koutu Nui, Maria Henderson, Sam Napa, Dr Jon Jonasson, Rutera Taripo, Tauraki Raea, Teaukura Teaukura, Sam Crocombe, Keu Mataroa, Sam Tauraki, Terry Rangi, Dr Teina Rongo, Anthony Turua, Julie Taripo Shedden, Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.