News | 21 December 2021

Street Smart: How we name our streets

Names should be unique, short, simple and respectful. It also helps if they tell a story.

A red car parked outside a small wooden house wedged between too larger wooden houses on Aro Street in 1991.
Aro Street in 1991. Wellington City Libraries, 50014-522-w206. Photograph by Derek Smith.

Names are important. They connect us to the land and the environment around us.  
They help us identify precisely where places are located, and help us recognise and reflect culture, history and landscape. 

They also help tell stories about how we got to where we are today, and what has gone before. 

So, how does Wellington City Council name our streets? 

The process is guided by the Council’s naming policy, Te Māpihi Maurea, which applies to all roads, but also to “open spaces, Council facilities, suburbs, localities and subdivisions”. 

The policy outlines the principles and processes the Council follows when naming, to help ensure no silly, offensive or incongruous names pop up, but also that local iwi are properly engaged. 

At the document’s heart is criteria around: 

- using te reo Māori where a location is important to mana whenua;  

- using common use names where appropriate;  

- using names that tell stories about the history of the feature;  

- using names which reflect the local landscape, topographical features, or flora or fauna. 

Mayor Andy Foster and local Iwi members remove the cover from the updated street sign for Te Wharepōuri Street in Berhampore.
Te Wharepōuri Street sign which was corrected from Waripori Street in 2020.

The policy also states that all names should be four things: unique, short (preferably fewer than 12 characters), simple and respectful. 

Carline Thomas, Land and Customer Info Advisor at Wellington City Council, says in the past, streets were often named after people such as royals, notable local personalities, and family and friends of developers, as well as places or things that were relevant to developers.  

“New street names are usually more relevant to us today. They reflect greater awareness of where we live, in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

“They also tend to reflect the diversity of the people, native flora and fauna, and other important elements that give Wellington its unique vibe and energy. 

“Of course, a street name is really an important element of an address that enables wayfinding for visitors, delivery services, and most crucially, emergency services. However, they can contribute to our sense of place.” 

Carline says in the future the aim is for new street names to be more relevant to more people, with a greater use of te reo Māori. 

“In some areas, there is a street-naming theme. A theme may be continued, but with street naming now a consultative process, with mana whenua, relevant residents and historical associations, developers, as well as other pertinent stakeholders having input, there is more scope than previously for departures from these.” 

For more information, check out the policy on our website

A green background with a white ball on legs walking with

Wellington City Council looks after more than 700km of streets across the capital, and each one has its own unique story. Check out Our Wellington and our social media channels for more articles, videos and interesting snippets.