Mana whenua are calling for an adjustment to the name of the Whangārei township of Kamo.
Local hapū Te Kahu o Torongare would like to see the name changed to Te Kamo, in honour of a rangatira of the area.
"Even though Kamo is a simple name, it often gets mangled," said Huhana Lyndon, who has whakapapa links to Te Kahu o Torongare.
"We're trying to change the name to get the right pronunciation of the word being used and also to remember a traditional story about an ancestor of the place," local kaumātua Richard (Dick) Shepherd said.
The initiative has the backing of Whangārei District Mayor Sheryl Mai, who says changing the name would likely encourage correct pronunciation and also raise awareness around the history of the place.
"I'd question whether or not it's a change or more of a correction of the name... As a local community, understanding the reason why places are named the way they are and having an understanding of the history is a really important step in the process of getting place names correct," Mai said.
"If steps like this encourage correct pronunciation and acknowledgment of the history behind the name, then that's a win."
Interestingly, according to Land Information New Zealand, Kamo is not an official name and the township has never been given an official name.
"I had a look on the Land Information New Zealand website and saw that Kamo isn't actually an official name. There's never been an official naming of the place, so I'm encouraged by that," Mai said.
Although the initiative is said to also have the support of local schools, Kamo Community Incorporated chairman Colin Twyman expects there will be resistance from some in the community.
"A general concern of people I've spoken with in Kamo is how far do we go with making sure we are culturally correct," Twyman said.
"Everything seems to be getting names that we cannot connect with, particularly the older generation. We've known Kamo as Kamo for years."
Mai acknowledged there were difficulties that came with such initiatives, but hoped the community would grow to accept the new name, should it be adopted.
"I understand that when people know a place and call it by a name, it's actually really hard to correct yourself, even if the name has been formally changed... I imagine some people will continue to call it Kamo but over time, there will be an acceptance that the correct name is Te Kamo," Mai said.
According to Shepherd, Te Kamo was once a prominent leader in the area. Shepherd says Te Kamo's pā site, Te Rauponga, was situated on the grass area behind the Kamo War Memorial Hall on Grant Street, extending down to where the Kamo bypass now is. That section of the main highway is now called Te Rauponga, honouring the history of the area.
Shepherd said Te Kamo would often gather together the elders of the hapū in the area to talk about issues and find resolutions for these issues, likening his role to that of a mayor.
"He organised all the hapū around this place, comparing it to a modern-day role, he probably had the same job as Sheryl Mai, as the Mayor of the area," Shepherd said.
Translated literally, Kamo means "wink, blink, eye, eyelid, or eyelash". According to the book "Kamo, the Story of a Village" by Diana Menefy, there are several versions of the story about how Kamo came to be named.
One prominent story refers to the bubbling of the water from the natural springs in the area. Another well-known story talks of a local chief who went on a trip, leaving behind his partner. Upon his return, the chief discovered his partner was being unfaithful. It is said the chief took his partner and hung her from a puriri tree. By the time the rest of the travelling party returned, the chief's partner was almost dead, but managed to flutter her eyes, or kamo. The same puriri tree still stands today on Grant St.
Shepherd says while many people are aware of the graphic story behind the name Kamo, the proposed change is not attempting to hide this history. Instead, he says the hapū are hoping to enable children in the area to have a stronger affiliation with the place in which they study and reside.
"The kaupapa started at the high school not that long ago. They were looking for something for the kids to give them ownership of that particular place," Shepherd said.
"In Kamo, we've got four schools within a stone's throw of each other. They are all keen on pepeha to find connection with the area," Lyndon said.
"By bringing back Te Kamo the name, we're hoping that we can build a sense of community," Lyndon said.
According to Shepherd and Lyndon, two schools in Kamo have already adopted the change; Kamo High School is using the name "Te Kura Tuarua o Te Kamo" and the local kindergarten is becoming known as Te Kamo Kindergarten. The hapū have also met with Kamo Intermediate School and Kamo Primary School, who they say have also expressed interest in adopting the name.
"Through the schools and the next generation of tamariki, we have an opportunity to bring back or correct the name," Lyndon said.
Shepherd says schools and others in the community he has spoken with seem to support the amendment, but the group is not rushing to apply to the New Zealand Geographic Board seeking the change.
"We don't intend to rush this. We intend to open up this conversation with the community," Shepherd said.
Twyman said the Kamo Community Incorporated committee was yet to make a formal decision on the matter but Shepherd's reasoning for the amendment was well received by the group.
"The committee hasn't made a decision. We haven't really talked about it yet... We know Kamo High School is well involved with the process and we support that," Twyman said.
"There are good reasons for the change, I have to admit that. Whether it'll go down well with the general public, I'm not really sure... We're speaking Māori more and more, and the English language is being forgotten. It's being absolutely sublimated."