Unlike the Whanganui National Park and Whanganui River, the city of Wanganui has long been spelt without an “h”. The pronunciation of both is the same, deriving from the local Maori dialect, pronouncing the “wh” prefix phonetically (as opposed to elsewhere in the country, where the “wh” is pronounced “f”). The spelling quirk results from a direct transcription of the Maori name (whanga nui translates as “big harbour”). Most locals opposed any streamlining of the spelling, but in 2009 authorities ruled that the “h” is optional. For consistency with the majority of current usage, the city spelling “Wanganui” has been retained in this guide.

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