Opera House to get the Whanganui ‘H’

Posted 9 April 2021 by Moana Ellis

Whanganui city’s historic Royal Wanganui Opera House is a step closer to adopting an ‘h’ in its full name.

The Royal Wanganui Opera House.

Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Whanganui District Council’s property and services committee has agreed unanimously to change the name of the Opera House to include an ‘h’ in Whanganui.

The 120-year-old building is one of the last remaining working Victorian theatres in the southern hemisphere and is the only council-owned building still carrying the old spelling.

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

Councillors heard that changing the name now would be timely and cost-effective as the building is undergoing maintenance. New signage with the correct spelling could go up when exterior painting and repairs are completed later this month.

The council consulted with Friends of the Opera House, 74 percent of whom were in support of adding the ‘h’. Eight percent were neutral and 13 percent opposed because of likely mispronunciation, a preference for the spelling of Whanganui without the ‘h’, and concerns over the Royal title.

The opera house was given a Royal title as part of its centennial celebrations in 1999. Whanganui District Council has informed the Palace and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has confirmed that changing the spelling does not need the approval of the Queen or the Governor-General.

Approval for the committee’s decision will be sought at the next full council meeting.

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