Hamilton City councillors have unanimously backed the name of a native bird — Te Huia — for the new commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland, which has so far been widely referred to unofficially as the Tron Express.

Te Huia was a bird tapu (sacred) to Māori with its white-tipped tail feathers being highly prized.

The Te Huia is believed to be extinct. The last sighting of the bird was in 1907.

It was noted for having beautiful tail feathers, orange wattles and a long curved beak.
According to Wikipedia, it was wiped out because of over hunting to procure huia skins for mounted specimens and their tail feathers for hat decorations. Another major cause was widespread deforestation of the lowlands of the North Island by European settlers to create pasture.

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Last December the Passenger Rail Service Project Governance Group met and the matter of a name for the start-up rail service was discussed. The name Te Huia was considered.

The idea is now finding favour and common ground between the parties involved in the project and is the name preferred by Manu Whenua following consultation in November.

In her chair's report for last Tuesday's Hamilton City Council's meeting, the first of the year, Mayor Paula Southgate asked city councillors to endorse the name Te Huia to support the Governance Group in making a final decision on the matter.

The carriages for the Hamilton to Auckland rail service are currently undergoing refurbishment. Photo / Waikato Regional Council
The carriages for the Hamilton to Auckland rail service are currently undergoing refurbishment. Photo / Waikato Regional Council

Councillor Dave Macpherson, who sat on the Governance Group said discussions around the name started last year, with Tron Express being the most popular.

"A number of Waikato District councillor were strongly against the Tron Express and said over my dead body, and while that was an attractive proposition, it was a contentious name.

"The name Te Huia popped up soon after," Mr Macpherson said.

Councillor Ewan Wilson said while the name will be a strong aspect of the train service, the most important part will be the tagline.

Previous names suggested were Tron Express, Tron, H2A, Waikato Link, and Tūhono (meaning to link or connect) Waikato.

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The Hamilton to Auckland rail service will launch this year, with the new Rotokauri Transport Centre being built beside The Base, Te Rapa.

The Government also announced last week the electrification of the tracks between Papakura to Pukekohe starting late this year, which could benefit the Hamilton to Auckland rail service. It is the overall future plan to have rapid rail between Hamilton to Auckland which would require the electrification of the track from Pukekohe to Frankton.