Bilingual naming of Wellington City Council wards

Details on the meaning of the te reo Māori names for each ward and why they were chosen.

Names of landmarks, landscapes and regions and the narratives behind them provide an opportunity for people to bond with the places they have or intend to call home.

The importance of providing names to landmarks and the landscape is something people have undertaken for millennia to:

  1. lay claim to new found lands
  2. make a connection with traditional homelands
  3. describe an event
  4. describe significant features
  5. provide an aspiration for future generations.

Because Māori in general consider they have a whakapapa link to Aotearoa, going through a naming process is very significant and carefully considered. This is especially the case for mana whenua (local Māori with officially recognised traditional custodianship of land).

In accordance with the priorities in the ensuing Te Tauihu – Te Reo policy, Wellington City Council has sought input from mana whenua into appropriate bi-lingual names based on the five criteria above.

The names reflect the depth of Wellington’s history and our mana whenua narrative, but are not a forgone conclusion and are still open to discussion.

The names reflect Wellington City Council’s increased commitment to widen the use, understanding and prominence of our city’s te reo Māori heritage. It is hoped that Wellingtonians will respect that our city is built on centuries of history that deserves to be acknowledged today.

Whether your ancestors sailed upon the waters by waka or by ship, or fly among the clouds by airplane, the city we know now as Wellington welcomes you.

Motukairangi - Eastern Ward

Having a history that dates back to the day Kupe first heard the waves lapping upon the Seatoun shore (Kirikiri tātangi – the sound of waves on gravel), the Eastern Ward welcomes and safeguards the entrance to the great Wellington harbour.

The name Motukairangi is a combination of three primary words: motu, meaning island; kai, meaning to eat or gaze; and rangi, meaning sky. Combined the name literally means the sky-gazing island.

Flanked by numerous traditional pā (settlements), the Motukairangi area was once an island where expansive gardens sustained and fed multitudes.

Over centuries, nature connected Motukairangi to the mainland and it became the vibrant, creative, and welcoming Eastern Ward. It is the ward that welcomes the world and creates new worlds (both digital and literal) through innovation, productivity, creativity and inclusivity.

The traditional Motukairangi area refers to the entire area east of Kilbirnie.

Because of the great history relating to Motukairangi and the fact that it is already widely used, it was considered appropriate.

Paekawakawa - Southern Ward

The Southern Ward has welcomed and housed people from all over the world. Many people call the ward their first home in Wellington. It acts as a gateway to our city from the south and is an area of hope, cultural acceptance and opportunity.

The name Paekawakawa is a combination of two primary words: pae, meaning area or place; and kawakawa, meaning the kawakawa plant. Combined, the name literally means Area of Kawakawa. The Kawakawa plant is widely acknowledged as a medicinal plant that can be used to aid many ailments and can also be made into a tea.

The Paekawakawa stream has a well-developed system of headwater tributaries that extend from the Vogeltown area eastward to the southern end of Newtown. As a stream that feeds the waterways, it would have provided sustenance to the land and people over centuries.

Because of the role the Southern Ward area has had in welcoming, healing (through the hospital and other centres) and providing opportunity for people, the name Paekawakawa was considered appropriate.

Pukehīnau - Lambton Ward

Being the heart of the Wellington city centre and home to many streams that flow under our feet, the Lambton Ward deserves a name that reflects life, abundance, diversity and versatility.

The name Pukehīnau is a combination of two primary words: puke, meaning hill, ridge or range; and hīnau, being a native tree of significance. When combined the name literally means hill of the hīnau tree.

The hīnau is a tree that bears large purple berries that were highly valued as a food source by early Māori. The timber from the tree was used in the construction of homes, weapons and canoes.

The traditional Pukehīnau area is the ridge extending from Te Aro School to west of Victoria University and up to Kelburn. It is where many of the streams under the city centre flow from.

Given the hīnau can feed people, provide housing materials and protect people, the name Pukehīnau was considered appropriate.

Takapū - Northern Ward

The area presently known as the Northern Ward includes some of the final stretches of State Highway 1. The highway acts as an access way for trade and transport and connects us with the wider region and country. The Northern Ward area provides sustenance, access and direction to a place that prides itself on being an accessible and productive city.

The name Takapū refers to the words of Patukawenga (a chief of the area), who spoke of the food supply and abundance of food in the valley, declaring “Ko taku takapū tēnei” – “This is my belly”, ie place of food supply. There was a cultivation located in the valley of the Porirua Stream (originally Kenepuru) in the vicinity of the present Takapū Road.

Given the role the Northern Ward has had in providing access, sustenance and direction for the region, the name Takapū was considered appropriate.

Wharangi - Onslow-Western Ward

The area presently known as the Onslow-Western Ward is as expansive and wide ranging as the Wharangi range that borders it.

It is an expanse that embraces and utilises the elements of nature to provide for its people and the region. A place that powers the region through wind farms, provides protection from the elements and invites development.

The name Wharangi refers to the Wharangi plant, which is a coastal plant that produces an edible gum that acts as a mouth freshener and when crushed it emits a pleasant scent.

In terms of the hill range, the name Wharangi was provided at a time when oral history reigned and therefore details were not recorded. The hills flow from Makara to the forks of the Karori stream, and, in the other direction, it runs west of Wadestown and on to Porirua.

Because the Onslow-Western Ward area, has, does, and will continue to provide stability, inclusivity and adaptability to a region that prides itself on being a cutting-edge city, naming it after the expansive hills was considered appropriate.