The name of a street in Havelock North is contentious for residents, but a local kaumatua is defending the choice, saying the name has historic importance for the area.

Te Heipora Place, off Arataki Rd, was named after the principal wife of Te Hapuku, an important chief in the area in the 1870s. Te Heipora owned a large area of land there.

Residents objected at a naming and blessing ceremony yesterday morning because they had not been part of the naming process, saying the name was too unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce.

But kaumatua Jerry Hapuku said the name had great significance, and matched Karanema Drive, which was named after Te Heipora's son or grandson.

The iwi did not intend to compromise. "We want this name on this street. It is how we feel as descendants," he said.

If residents wanted help pronouncing Te Heipora (hay-pora), Mr Hapuku said he was happy to visit them.

Sue Beaver has owned a section on the street since February and said she was not consulted about the naming. She told iwi representatives that landowners would protest against the name.

The first time she became aware of the name was when her rates bill arrived. "It is not a race issue, the problem is consultation," she said. "No one will be able to pronounce it. They're telling us it has gone through the emergency services process but how are emergency services going to find it if no one can say the name?"

Pukepuke Tangiora Huata, a descendent of Te Heipora, said it was good to see her ancestor finally acknowledged.

Mrs Huata, a fifth-generation descendent of Te Heipora and Te Hapuku, said New Zealanders should be happy to say Maori words properly. "We all live in New Zealand and we are multi-cultural now," she said. "We have foreign tourists visiting who can say the words right but some people born in New Zealand don't want to."

Hastings District Council planning and regulatory services group manager John O'Shaughnessy said the council had not expected the choice to be controversial. It had completed a report about the significance of the name but if it was referred back to the council it would have to find a solution.

Tim Wilkins, of developers Snow Wilkins, said it was unusual for a street to be named after development was started. He and his father had developed a number of subdivisions without conflict over street names.

His company was not against a street being given a Maori name, and suggested the reserve in the Arataki Mews could be named Te Heipora. "We have spoken to some who have purchased properties and Maori representatives and we now want council to review the decision."