Maori chief inspires name for bridge

By Mike Barrington


Skilled at making fish-hooks, Wiremu Pohe, the Ngati Kahu chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei, has landed a place in modern history.

The Whangarei District Council infrastructure and services committee yesterday decided to call the new Lower Hatea River bridge Te Matau a Pohe (The Fish Hook of Pohe).

Public submissions were sought on naming the bridge and the Project Control Group - a team of councillors and senior staff appointed by the committee - considered 91 names submitted, including Jaw Bridge, Mandible Bridge and Made in China.

As part of the public submission process, the council consulted kaumatua from local iwi - Taipari Munro (Te Parawhau), Richard Shepherd (Ngati Kahu o Torongare), Te Wahiri Heteraka (Ngati Wai), and Buster Whautere (urban Maori) - who preferred the name Te Matau a Pohe.

Acceptance of this name was linked to UK bridge architect Martin Knight being inspired by the shape of Maori fish hooks when designing the bridge.

Committee comments on the new bridge included councillor Crichton Christie saying the late councillor Wally Redwood had envisaged the new harbour crossing in 1990, and former mayor Stan Semenoff "drove like hell" to get the bridge.

While infrastructure and services committee agreement on Te Matau a Pohe was reached without dissent, naming the new road across Pohe Island connecting Riverside Drive and Port Rd via the bridge was contentious for the council's district living committee.

Three names were suggested - William Fraser Drive, Iwitahi Drive and Dave Culham Drive, with the Project Control Group recommending William Fraser Drive. However, Mayor Morris Cutforth said the park on Pohe Island was named after William Fraser - an engineer, local politician and conservationist - and naming the road after engineer and councillor Dave Culham would recognise another city stalwart.

Mr Cutforth moved approval for Dave Culham Drive, but councillor Brian McLachlan moved an amendment for William Fraser Drive.

Committee members then took turns voicing their opinions on the issue, with Dave Culham Drive winning a divided vote, opposed by councillors McLachlan, Merv Williams, Aaron Edwards and Shelley Deeming.

Family joy as stalwart remembered

"Bloody wonderful," was Shane Culham's response to being told the Pohe Island road had been named after his late father.

"I'm immensely proud this has happened. My father gave his heart and soul for the betterment of Northland."

Dave Culham - businessman, former district councillor and supporter of community groups and sporting organisations - died last December aged 81. Shane now runs Culham Engineering, the Whangarei business his father established in 1958.

Among acknowledgments during council debate over naming the road, councillor Kahu Sutherland said Mr Culham had shaped the lives of many Whangarei people and Culham Engineering wages had provided support for Whangarei families over the past 55 years.


- Northern Advocate

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