Opera to get the Whanganui ‘H’

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The historic Royal Wanganui Opera House in Whanganui Town is one step closer to adopting an “h” in its full name.

Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

The Whanganui District Council Goods and Services Committee unanimously agreed to change the name of the Opera House to include an “h” in Whanganui.

The 120-year-old building is the last working Victorian theater in the Southern Hemisphere and is the only council-owned building that still bears the old spelling.

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“Whanganui” has been the official spelling since 2017 when the name change was officially published in the Gazette, reflecting the views of the Whanganui District Council, local iwi and public bidders.

Advisors heard that changing the name now would be timely and profitable as the building is undergoing maintenance. New signage with the correct spelling may increase when exterior painting and repairs are completed later this month.

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The board consulted the Friends of the Opera, 74% of whom were in favor of adding the “h”. Eight percent were neutral and 13 percent opposed due to probable mispronunciation, a preference for the spelling of Whanganui without the “h” and concerns about the royal title.

The opera was given a royal title as part of the centenary celebrations in 1999. The Whanganui District Council informed the palace and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage confirmed that the spelling change did not require the approval of the Queen or the Governor General. .

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Approval of the committee’s decision will be sought at the next full board meeting.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the Association of News Editors and NZ On Air.

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