News | 13 September 2023
Share on social

What's in a name: The meaning behind te reo place names in Pōneke

Here in Pōneke we are lucky to have te reo Māori names for our key Council buildings. Here are some of the meanings behind the names.

Artistic impression of Ākau Tangi signage outside building as new name for the Wellington ASB Sports Centre

Ākau Tangi 

The name Ākau Tangi speaks to the sound and energy of the wind and waves crashing along the coastline. The name is made up of two parts – Te Ākau, meaning the coast, and Tangi, to make sound, cry out. 

See more about Ākau Tangi sports centre in Kilbirnie.

Te Matapihi Harris Street view artist render

Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui

The name of the central library translates to ‘The window to the wider world’. It will be a place where people can learn, cultures and communities can connect with each other, and everyone can enjoy access to open public spaces.

Find out more about Te Matapihi.

High angle view over the Botanic Gardens with people walking on the paths.

Botanic Garden ki Paekākā

The name Paekākā, means “realm or perch of the kākā". The name, gifted by mana whenua, applies to the area from the top of the Cable Car around the Pukehinau area, down to the Waipaekākā (stream) and Pakuao Kāinga in Thorndon (located above the end of Tinakori Road) – and take in all Council spaces and places.

Visit the Botanic Garden ki Paekākā.

Photograph of the Waitohi Johnsonville Community Hub facade with seats and a bicycle in the courtyard.

Waitohi Community Hub

Waitohi is the original name of the Nga Uranga stream. To begin with Nga Uranga (landing place) was the mouth of the stream where canoes landed. Waitohi referred to the stream and the valley at the back of the pā.

Visit Waitohi Community Hub.

A long boardwalk leading to a building, lit from the inside and surrounded in people, set in the canopy of native bush.

Tāne Whakapiripiri 

The Ōtari Wilton's-Bush visitor centre was gifted a new name from mana whenua, Tāne Whakapiripiri. In this case the building is named after Tāne, god of the forest, who had many names. This particular name means ‘Tāne who draws people together’ - fitting for a place where people come together to learn about the nature and stories of the land and forest.  

Visit Ōtari Wilton's-Bush.

Image of rimu in Ōtari-Wilton's Bush credit Phil Parnell
Image credit Phil Parnell.


The name Moko was gifted to the oldest tree in Wellington at Ōtari Wilton's Bush by local Iwi after some discussion about a suitable title, and establishing the age and sex of the tree – Moko was decided upon as it is most appropriate for a female tree, which is younger than Tāne Mahuta.

Read more about Moko.

Te Pokapū Hapori exterior with Pastor Joe Serevi outside

Te Pokapū Hāpori 

Te Pokapū Hapori is a community centre located Manners Street, opposite Te Aro Park. The surrounding area is the former site of the Te Aro Pā, making it a place of significant importance to mana whenua and the city. Te Aro Pā was a pā and kāinga in the 1800s with cultivation fields, kaimoana, and Te Waimapihi stream all nearby.

Find out more about Te Pokapū Hāpori

Image of Te Awe library with feature wall and couches

Te Awe library

Wellington’s third CBD library has been gifted the name Te Awe (meaning white feathers or plumes). Te Awe refers to white feathers or plumes and has an important cultural tohu for ngā tāngata of Taranaki/Te Atiawa.

Visit Te Awe library.

Wellington's Civic Square, showing the Town Hall and the Council's Building.

Te Ngākau  

Te Ngākau – the Civic Precinct forms the highly-connected ‘heart of the city’ where people can walk between Wellington’s waterfront, the Golden Mile and our important arts, cultural and performance venues. The name means 'the heart' and it was gifted to the city by Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika a Māui. This precinct was renamed when the Council introduced te Reo Māori policy, Te Tauihu.

Read more about the project.

Front view of new library and service centre on Manners Street

Te Whare Pukapuka o Arapaki Manners me te Pūtahi Ratonga

The Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre is based on Manners street. Arapaki are ornamental lattice-work, used particularly between carvings around the walls of meeting houses, and are unique because it takes two artists working together to complete every arapaki. The name was gifted to the site by Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika.

Visit Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre..

The outside of Takina convention centre.


The Māori meaning of Tākina is to encounter and invoke, to connect and to bring forth. The Convention Centre was bestowed with the name Tākina to acknowledge and reflect the way that Wellington summons great winds, which are considered a metaphor for bringing magic, energy, ideas, and the sharing of knowledge. 

Find out more about Tākina.