The rebranding of one of New Zealand’s biggest telcos is off to a rocky start, many online saying the new name sounds more like a fascist political party than a cellphone operator.

From next year, Vodafone New Zealand is going to call itself One New Zealand – saving costs on paying a licence for the Vodafone brand name, and becoming a company with “one focus on one country and on one goal: to unlock the magic of technology to create an awesome Aotearoa”. 

But Kiwi Twitter users were quick to point out ‘One NZ’ sounds an awful lot like ‘One Australia’, the racist immigration policy adopted by New Zealand’s neighbour in the 1980s and ’90s. Or One Nation Australia, a racist far-right party with similar views. 

A Google search for One NZ – at least for now – brings up the racist group One New Zealand Foundation on the front page. The Spinoff once described it as a “Northland-based outfit founded to fight ‘Māori apartheid'”. One of its main men was in 2013 jailed for a range of crimes, among them rape and assaulting children with weapons

‘One NZ’ sounds like a fascist political party, one Twitter user said. “One NZ sounds like a political party that stands against capital gains tax and wants to cap Treaty claims,” said another.

“Vodafone not being aware of One NZ’s potential meanings is a bit like when you find out some generic car name means arse in Spanish or vomit in Swahili,” said a third.

“It sounds like a political party that’s secretly run by the worst three dudes on NZ twitter, and has a base that insists it ‘just collects WW2 memorabilia’,” added another.

Changing Vodafone’s name will also see the league team the Vodafone New Zealand Warriors change their name, to One NZ Warriors. On top of the rugby union side the Crusaders’ refusal to change their name in the wake of the white supremacist attack on Muslims in their hometown of Christchurch in 2019, some said it didn’t sound good. 

“So now we have the Crusaders and One NZ Warriors… what next, the Klu Klux Phoenix?” one person tweeted.

Others have noted the similarity in sound of One NZ to 1News, the state-owned news network. The NZ Herald even used near-homonyms as a joke in its report.

The CEO, Jason Paris, told BusinessDesk he had no idea the name ‘One NZ’ might have a “negative history”, and the first he heard was after the official announcement on Wednesday.

“Cannot understand how the brand agency missed this,” said reporter Ben Moore, noting Paris had told it was “done now” so couldn’t be reversed. 

“Ultimately we won’t be judged on the name but the actions we take. That’s our focus,” Paris said in a tweet. 

Paris was also in charge when former state-owned telco Telecom rebranded as Spark.