Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

New name for City Focus

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Rotorua's former City Focus has a new name and will soon have eight new carvings installed.

Its new name is Manawa, which means heart in te reo Maori.

But, the new name and carvings came as a surprise to Rotorua district councillors spoken to by the Rotorua Daily Post today.

Eight new carved pou (wooden posts) will be installed within Manawa that will represent the "eight beating hearts" of Te Arawa, one for each hapu.

According to Rotorua Lakes Council's strategy and partnerships group manager Jean-Paul Gaston, two old carvings of Hinemoa and Tutanekai are to be restored and reinstated as part of the revamped space.

"We are referring to the area as Manawa to reflect it is the heart of the central city and that it will be a new space that is changing as part of our wider inner city revitalisation.

"Following discussion with the inner city steering group we consulted with Ngati Whakaue, as mana whenua who had gifted the land to Rotorua.

"They suggested Manawa to reflect this space being seen as the "heart of the city", to tie in with Rotorua's famous Hinemoa and Tutanekai love story, and as a reference to the eight children of chief Rangitihi, who will feature as new pou which will be created by local carvers selected by Te Arawa hapu."

Costs for the new pou were not known at this stage, he said.

But, councillor and chairwoman of the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group Glenys Searancke said the first she had heard of the name change and new carvings was when she was called by the Rotorua Daily Post today.

"There has been no discussion about it at council," she said.

"Clearly these discussions don't come to us for decisions anymore as they are done within portfolios, especially inner city decisions.

"We should have been told - what are we actually here for? Words fail me, we didn't even know work would be starting in the school holidays, a totally inappropriate time to be doing this," Mrs Searancke said.

Councillor and inner city retailer Mark Gould said he was not aware of the name change, carvings, or the fact streets were being closed during the school holidays.

"As a retailer, and a councillor, I would have liked to have been informed. I would have said not to do it during the holidays due to how busy the city can get."

Former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall, who has been vocal in his criticism of changes to the City Focus, said it seemed to him the council did not like consulting with "general ratepayers".

"It would be quite simple to put something like this out there for people to have their say. I have no objection whatsoever to the Maori name or carvings, but the costs are a complete shambles, as is this whole City Focus redesign.

"There are too many individuals making decisions without the support or input of their council colleagues," he said.

But, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the portfolios were designed to streamline consultation and councillors should have been aware of the work from a recent council agenda.

"Some councillors are still struggling with the portfolios, but I think they need to read their reports better."

However, she admitted the name change was not part of that report.

"I'm very pleased Ngati Whakaue have gone with the name Manawa, it's very fitting.

"It's going to be a wonderful space when it's finished," she said.

Inner City Revitalisation portfolio lead councillor Karen Hunt was not available for comment.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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