The Whanganui River is a major river in the North Island of New Zealand.For many years it was known in some records as the Wanganui River, however the river's name officially reverted to Whanganui in 1991, according with the wishes of local iwi. Part of the reason was also to avoid confusion with the Wanganui River in the South Island. The city at the river's mouth was called Wanganui until December 2009, when the government decided that while either spelling was acceptable, Crown agencies would use the Whanganui spelling.
The river is of special and spiritual importance for Maori, who also refer to it as Te awa tupua-it was the home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times. As such, it is regarded as taonga, a special treasure. In recent times, efforts have been made to safeguard the river and give it the respect it deserves.For the same reason, the river has been one of the most fiercely contested regions of the country in claims before the Waitangi Tribunal for the return of tribal lands. In fact the Whanganui River claim is heralded as the longest-running legal case in New Zealand history with petitions and court action in the 1930s, Waitangi Tribunal hearings in the 1990s and land occupations such as the ongoing Tieke Marae occuption since 1993 and the highly publicised Moutoa Gardens occupation in 1995.