News | 2 July 2024
Share on social

Streets with interesting histories

From a raging jazz club to a famous Rangatira (chief) to one of the wealthiest families in Aotearoa; discover the fascinating history and stories behind five of Wellington's streets.

Image of the unveiling of the street sign for Hōniana Te Puni Stree
The unveiling of the new street sign for Hōniana Te Puni Street

Hōniana Te Puni Street

This Aro Valley street is named after Hōniana Te Puni, a prominent Te Āti Awa leader who played a significant role in shaping Wellington’s cultural history. 

Born in Taranaki in the late 18th century, Hōniana Te Puni was a chief of the Ngāti Tāwhirikura and Ngāti Te Whiti hapū of Te Āti Awa. In the early 1830s he was one of the leaders of the hekenga (migration) that travelled from Taranaki to the greater Wellington region. 

In 1839, he and Te Wharepōuri, another chief of Te Āti Awa and a signatory on Te Tiriti in 1840, signed an agreement to sell land in the present-day Wellington City to the New Zealand Company, with a tenth of the land to be set apart for Māori.

In 2024, the street was renamed from Epuni Street. This change was to formalise the past colloquial term used in conversation between Māori in certain circumstances, similar to the use of e hoa (friend) today. 

As a founder of Wellington, the street was renamed as a proper show of respect to Hōniana Te Puni Street, in collaboration with Tākai Here partners Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa ki te Upoko o Te Ika a Māui, and descendants of Hōniana Te Puni.

A black and white photo of the concrete steps leading down Tokyo Lane (now Farmers Lane).
Wellington City Council Archives, 00158-1452-b (sheet 3222b)

Tokyo Lane 

Now known as Farmers Lane, this street is one of many shortcuts from Lambton Quay to The Terrace.
When the steps were formed in 1881, the area was named York Lane but a few years later it became Tokio Lane. However, there was strong distaste for that name during World War II resulting in another name change in 1942 to Farmers Lane.

New Zealand's displeasure with Japan gradually abated and from 1981 there were several unsuccessful attempts to have the name Farmers Lane changed to Tokyo Lane. Instead, in 2009, an unnamed walkway from Bolton Street to the Clifton Terrace cable car station was named Tokyo Lane.

The name celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the Embassy of Japan and the 50th anniversary of the Japan Society of Wellington. A plaque was installed in 2012. 

A sepia photo of a perfomance troupe wearing white pierrot costumes with two in the centre wearing black clothes and stage makeup.
Theo Trezise sits in the front row of his performance troupe which entertained soldiers during WWI.

Goring Street

It might seem like a sleepy cul-de-sac, but 100 years ago Goring Street in Thorndon was the site of a raging jazz club called “The Cabaret.” The club was opened in 1920 by Theo Trezise, a flamboyant dance instructor, comedian and drama producer who used to entertain the troops overseas in World War I. 

During the day it was a dance school but at night it was full of “nocturnal gaieties” as the sounds of corks popping, cars, jazz and the shout of dancers went on till 3am. It was even rumoured the Prince of Wales spent an evening there!

Neighbour Edward Tregear who lived across the road from the club could not get any sleep because of the noise. He ended up going to the Truth newspaper to complain which resulted in headlines like “Mirth, motors and malediction” and “Householders Hot Over Highborn Hullabaloo”.

Eventually Tregear and his family up and moved to Picton for some peace and quiet. The Cabaret raged on, marking the beginning of the era of boisterous jazz bands and late-night joy rides. 

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.

Te Wharepōuri Street 

Te Wharepōuri Street in Berhampore is named after the Te Ātiawa Chief, Te Wharepōuri. Born in the late 1700s in Taranaki, Te Wharepōuri first came to the Wellington region in 1832 when he established settlements in Kāpiti and later also lived in Porirua.

He briefly established a settlement in the southern part of the Wairarapa at a time when the area had been largely abandoned by other iwi, but came into conflict with them when they later returned to re-occupy the area which they regarded as being part of their traditional rohe. He was living in Ngāūranga when the New Zealand Company ship The Tory arrived in 1839. 

Fearing that Te Ātiawa were at risk of being pushed out of the greater Te Whanganui-a-Tara area by more powerful tribal groups, Te Wharepōuri and his cousin Te Puni negotiated the sale of land which today makes up the greater Wellington area to the Company, believing that the presence of Europeans would give them the protection from attack that they sought.

Initially thinking that just a small European trading post would be established under his protection, Te Wharepōuri was staggered when hundreds of settlers started arriving the following year and disagreements grew between him and other senior members of the iwi who felt that they had not been properly consulted before the land sale.

In 1841 the NZ Company named (but misspelt) a street in Berhampore Wari-Pori (later Waripori) Street in recognition of his role in negotiating the sale of land to the Company and because it was located around a cluster of town-acre blocks which had been set aside as ‘Native Reserves’.

In 2020 the incorrect spelling was officially changed and corrected to Te Wharepōuri Street.



A black and white photo of Old Porirua Road, near Wellington taken around the 1860s where the road is still a dirt track and lined by trees on either side.
Old Porirua Road in the 1860s/19th Century. Photograph by John Tensfeld.

Old Porirua Road  

The Old Porirua Road was a foot-track used by local Māori before Pākehā settlement. As the name would suggest, this road used to reach far beyond Wellington's borders.

By the 1840s it had been widened and improved and during the early 19th century it was the only route north on the west coast. 

Old Porirua Road would become superseded by the Ngauranga Gorge Road (1858), Ngaio Gorge Road (1902), and other more convenient routes. Today Old Porirua Road spans a modest 1.3 km, winding its way up from Kaiwharawhara to the junction of Perth and Cockayne Road in Ngaio.

A painting of The Grange, a grand white building with pointed roof sitting on top of a hill surrounded by trees while a man and young child walk are pictured in the bottom left corner walking across a field towards it.
The Grange, 1869 by Henry Tilbury, ATL Ref: B-168-014

Sar Street 

Sar Street in Wadestown is named from the initials of Sarah Ann Rhodes (1837 – 1914). She was the sister of William Sefton Moorhouse who was Mayor of Wellington in 1875 while (curiously) also an MP for Christchurch at the same time.

Her husband William Barnard Rhodes was possibly the wealthiest person in NZ history in inflation-adjusted terms. They once owned a considerable portion of what is today the eastern slopes of Wadestown, living in a large house which over-looked the harbour called The Grange (pictured above).

Sarah Anne Rhodes was William Barnard Rhodes’ second wife (his first died in 1862) but no children came from either of these marriages. However, he had earlier had a daughter called Mary Anne through a relationship with a Māori woman by the name of Otahi who was of Taranaki Whānui descent. Mary Anne was bought up by Sarah Anne Rhodes who adopted her and treated her as if she were her own daughter.   

Their family tree was to become somewhat confusing when Mary Anne Rhodes later married Edward Moorhouse, the younger brother of William Moorhouse. As such, she married her step-uncle and her step-mother became her sister-in-law (or looking at it the other way around, Sarah Rhodes' step-daughter became her own sister-in-law). Mary Anne was born a Rhodes and became a Moorhouse while her sister-in-law, Sarah Anne, was born a Moorhouse and became a Rhodes.
Following the death of her husband, Sarah Ann Rhodes became a philanthropist, giving large sums of money to the Boys Insititute, educational institutions and charitable trusts.  She also gifted the mayoral chains to the city which are still in use to this day. 

A green background with a white ball on legs walking with

Enjoy this story? Wellington City Council looks after more than 700km of streets across the capital, and each one has its own unique tale. Check out our full Street Smart story collection on Our Wellington.