By Buddy Mikaere
What's in a name?
It seems that nothing is guaranteed to raise local social media ire quite as quickly as name changes to landmarks, streets, public facilities and similar.
The most recent local example of this is the renaming of Phoenix Park in downtown Mount Maunganui to Te Papa O Nga Manu Porotakataka which can be loosely translated as Circling Birds Place.
I think it's a good name and an acknowledgement to the resident squawky seagull population. But I also hear the squawks of outrage from a lot of people who probably find the name change the last straw over the much-disputed makeover of the space.
What's interesting about the change is that because of the controversy over the park and while they might not agree with it, Tauranga's mayor and city councillors can all pronounce the new name perfectly.
When I was a teenager Mount Maunganui was always "the Mount" as was our landmark hill. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to me on returning "home" 20 years ago to hear the new name for our sentinel maunga of Mauao.
I remember with amusement being corrected by a Pakeha lady when she overheard me using the "old" name and telling me I should know better! That transition seems to have been seamless and Mauao, meaning Captured by the Dawn or Captured by the Light, is a far more interesting appellation with its reference to the mythical story of how the maunga came to be in that place.
Other changes I found on my return to the Mount were also thought-provoking. Mt Drury is now Hopukiore or Rat Catcher Hill; the Blowhole is now Moturiki – Little Island - and Motuotau has replaced Rabbit Island. I sometimes hear Leisure Island used for Moturiki – a commercial name from the days when the island hosted a hydro slide and an ill-fated marine park, one I think should be banished forever. I have terrible remembered images of captured wild dolphins in the pools – all of whom died.
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The more recent point of controversy – and not just here in Tauranga – is the growing momentum to change names associated with the bitterness of the Land Wars of the 1860s and later. Here in Tauranga, it has been suggested that Cameron Rd should be renamed - but that the initiative should come from local iwi.
I'm ambivalent about that suggestion because I find it hard to separate the symbolism from the sentiment. Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron, in some quarters, has become the villain of the Battle of Pukehinahina/Gate Pa. But the real villains are the settler politicians whose greed for Maori land underpinned the Land Wars. Cameron, who once led the famous Black Watch Scottish Regiment, from all I have read was a humane man in terms of looking after the welfare of his soldiers. There is a photograph of him with a group of soldiers standing against the wheel of a cannon with his hands in his pockets looking very relaxed – a man at ease in the company of his men.
His concerns for the welfare of his troops and eventual realisation of the settler Government motives led him to slow his campaigns to preserve the lives of his soldiers until his resignation and return to England.
I'd like to see the name remain because it is a permanent sober reminder to me of the outcomes of Pukehinahina/Gate Pa – the subsequent land confiscations and the generations of poverty that my family along with many other Tauranga Maori families were subject to through the lack of an economic base.
I'd be more inclined to seek a change to Greerton, named for Lieutenant Colonel Henry Harpur Greer: a brutal disciplinarian who frequently flogged his troops at public displays on today's Wharepai Domain and who was in charge at the Te Ranga massacre on June 21, 1864.
Well, I think Cliff Rd should become Otamataha Rd after the pa that was formerly there. Dive Cres should become Taumatakahawai Cres after the pa that occupied the site of the Monmouth Redoubt. Kulim Park – a name from Malaysia? Really? How about Otumoetai Park? Cambridge Park should have its much more descriptive name restored: Te Waha O Te Marangai – The Mouth of the Storm – a reference to its former use as a weather lookout.
Many more potential name changes around the city would make us a far more interesting and vibrant place.
Buddy Mikaere is a historian, environmentalist, resource consents consultant and Tauranga Moana iwi representative with a wide variety of interests across the Mount Maunganui and Tauranga community. He serves on various council committees.