Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an important function at my old primary school – the correcting of a misinterpreted name.
Te Awamutu No 2 School opened in 1958, but by the time I started in 1963 it was known as Pekerau Primary School.
The name was supposed to be an abbreviation of Pekapekarau, the early Māori name for the area, meaning a multitude of bats, but was written incorrectly.
The successful korero to correct the error began in 2019 at a noho marae.
Then staff member and board of trustee staff representative Tirissa Randell asked a question; Do we want to correct the school name?
The overwhelming response was yes, and stories and tears flowed as whānau expressed their desires to have the correct name for the school. It was not the first time the issue had been raised.
Maia Stockman was one of the parents motivated to be part of the change.
She says the driving force was Awhimai Huka.
"Awhimai made a plan for us to stand for the board of trustees at the upcoming election to continue the work of previous trustees who were standing down, and we were successful," says Maia.
That year a subcommittee of the board was formed to progress the name correction.
Maia says in October a whānau hui was finally held, via Zoom, and the proposal received unanimous support.
Speaking at yesterday's opening, Tirissa credited Maia with driving the process despite the huge number of obstacles, as well as thanking board chairs Rachel Mullins and Erinna Lane for being brave enough to take on the kaupapa.
"Maia welcomed mana whenua who continuously supported us and kept us safe and honest every step of the way," said Tirissa.
Maia says the correction would not have been possible without the support and guidance of Georgina Rewha, Māria Murray, Missy Lord, Waimihi Hotere and Tom Roa.
"These people knew the processes we had to follow and offered complete support."
It took some time, and Covid interruptions slowed the process, but yesterday the school was officially given its correct name – Pekapekarau Primary School.
Maia says when the official confirmation was received "there was joy in the eyes of our whanau and mana whenua who were involved with the process".
"That joy made the whole process worthwhile," says Maia.
Invited guests and the school whānau celebrated the renaming of Pekapekarau School yesterday morning.
Kaumātua Tom Roa led proceedings and called for whānau to joyously proclaim the new name as they progressed from the front of the school, through to the main office, unveiling three signs to recognise the new name.
Former chairwoman Rachel Mullins unveiled the front of school sign with former board member Quentin Wallace and assistance from students Dylan Curran and Arnia Rogers.
Students Tamatera Maxwell and Téa Anderson-Clark unveiled the Positively Pekapekarau sign on the school driveway and Viyaan Govind and Cadence Pheng the sign on the school administration block.
Tumuaki/principal Tania Bagley said it was a privilege for her to be leader of Pekapekarau School, particularly during this important time.
"My own children came to this school before I did, so I already had an appreciation of what a great school this was and of the terrific culture - the strong sense of whānau and community along with learning."
She is looking forward to "continuing to grow as a kura and share our story of who were are as Pekapekarau", she said.
A large cake was cut by Isaiah Auga-Clark and Georgia Tamaki and shared amongst students, while the small number of guests shared kai and korero to finalise the formalities.
OPINION: I believe Waipā District Council now has an obligation to make the same correction and change the name of Pekerau Cres to Pekapekarau Cres.
The subdivision between Cambridge and Te Rahū roads was formed well after the school was opened and it is obvious the street name has replicated the same error.
There is a precedent for changing street names - a number of streets were renamed at the same time as the entire urban and rural area of Te Awamutu was renumbered.