Who needs a referendum on using Aotearoa? Not teenagers

Westlake Boys High School on Auckland's North Shore has begun to embrace Māori culture and some of its students are already using Aotearoa in their vocabulary.

With a roll of more than 2400, with just 300 of those Māori, Westlake Boys Māori department head Johnny Waititi says although National is challenging the government's use of the name, Aotearoa has already made a home in the hearts of his students.

"Aotearoa should be made official. The last line of the school's song is 'Aotearoa, manaakitia, manaakitia'."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she is happy either way whether New Zealand or Aotearoa is used.

"I think New Zealanders can call New Zealand what they want and what they choose. I don't think we need a referendum on something like that."

But Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith says there have been no consultations with wider New Zealand, and that worries him.

"It's the increasing use of Aotearoa by government departments and the sneaky way it has been brought in.

"Jacinda Ardern, if she wants to do things like that, should have that courage. I personally doubt she has it."

Although only 12 percent of the Westlake Boys School students are  Māori, the school has decided to become just the third mainstream high school in Auckland to open a bilingual unit.

"The traditions of our ancestors should be upheld. This school is one that has opened its heart."Waititi says.