Wesley in Mt Roskill is on the cusp of winning official recognition as an Auckland suburb, after resisting a housing development company's plan to swipe the name and move it south.

The area has been known as Wesley for 70 years and the 2013 Census found that 2871 people lived there. Unlike some of its neighbours - Sandringham, New Windsor and Mt Albert - it doesn't show up in a Google Map search, instead being obscured within Mt Roskill. But two Wesley schools, a Wesley Kindergarten and a Wesley Community Centre do show up.

The company, Grafton Downs, in 2016 asked for "Wesley" to be stripped from the suburb and assigned to its development at Wesley College near Pukekohe.

However, after sustained opposition from Wesley the suburb, Grafton Downs withdrew its application to the New Zealand Geographic Board, the country's leading gatekeeper of names.

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In a counter-proposal, Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood and the Puketāpapa Local Board asked that "Wesley" be officially assigned to the suburb.

The proposed suburban boundaries of Wesley include Auckland's Mt Albert Rd, May Rd, the Southwestern Motorway, Richardson Rd and Oakley Creek. Map / Land Information NZ
The proposed suburban boundaries of Wesley include Auckland's Mt Albert Rd, May Rd, the Southwestern Motorway, Richardson Rd and Oakley Creek. Map / Land Information NZ

That plan has now won provisional support from the Geographic Board, which has set a deadline of February 5 for submissions.

"Based on long-term use of the name, its strong association with the area, and the views of the community supporting the name, it would be in the public interest to make the name official," the Geographic Board says.

Puketāpapa's scheme had first needed a tweak to exclude from the proposed Wesley some territory of the neighbouring Albert-Eden Local Board.

Albert-Eden wrote that it "does not support part of Owairaka being included in the proposed official Wesley geographical boundaries".

Puketāpapa board chairman Harry Doig said, "We will be delighted when [the official naming] is finally passed."

He said it made sense for Wesley to have its name confirmed because it was used as a geographic area by Statistics NZ, in many local institutions, and because "it's right through the community".

An Auckland Council heritage study says the suburb's name, which stems from the 18th century English theologian John Wesley, has been associated with the area since colonial times through Wesley College.

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The Wesleyan Native Institution was established at Auckland's Grafton Rd in 1844. Four years later a second site was established for a college, in Three Kings, Auckland. Further Crown grants in the 1850s added more than 300ha, including the swampy land of the future suburb of Wesley, which was referred to on a plan at the time as the "Wesleyan Mission", and land at Wesley Bay on the Manukau Harbour.

In 1912, the college board puchased land at Paerata, about 6km north of Pukekohe, and in 1924 the main college moved there from Three Kings.

In 1939, the Government bought the land at Mt Roskill for state housing. It was subdivided in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Documents refer to the development as the "Wesley Block, Mount Roskill" and the name "Wesley" was printed on authoritative maps.