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NZ Geographic Board moots new spelling for Franz Josef

Nov 08, 2023

Both the glacier and the township have been spelled incorrectly. Photo: Andrew Mackintosh / Victoria University

The New Zealand Geographic Board is proposing to correct a more than century-old typo to an iconic West Coast landmark and town.

Franz Josef Glacier was named after then-Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1866 by geologist and founder of the Canterbury Museum, Julius von Haast.

However, over time Joseph was incorrectly changed to Josef.

The erroneous spelling of the glacier and its namesake town has been widely used since the early 1900s.

Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw said historical and authoritative sources had shown the emperor's name is spelled with a 'ph' and not an 'f'.

"The board agreed that the European part of the name is spelled incorrectly," Shaw said.

"Geologist and founder of the Canterbury Museum Julius von Haast named the glacier in 1866 after Kaiser Franz Joseph.

"Early plans and maps also show the name of the glacier and village spelled with a 'ph'. However, over time the incorrect spelling, in use since the early 1900s, has become the more common usage."

The village and glacier had official dual names through the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 - Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere for the glacier and Franz Josef/Waiau for the village.

"The proposal only affects the European part of the name, not the Māori," Shaw said.

In fact, the dual names had created some difficulty during an earlier effort to correct the misspelling.

The board rejected a proposal in April to correct the spelling of Joseph, as the inclusion of the names in the Ngāi Tahu settlement meant the board did not think it was possible to change the European name under the standard process set out in the New Zealand Geographic Board Act.

However, a fresh legal opinion had reopened the door and the board was now calling for submissions on the correction over the next month.

The Māori part of the name for the glacier was also being standardised to Kā Roimata-o-Hinehukatere, meaning the 'tears of the Avalanche Maiden'.

Anyone wishing to make a submission could do so on the Land Information website.

Main image (RNZ/Nate McKinnon): Both the glacier and the township (pictured) have been spelled incorrectly. 

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