Wednesday, June 19, 2024

New Wellington street name to honour ancestor

Wellington City Council has announced that Epuni Street in Aro Valley will be formally renamed to Hōniana Te Puni Street this week to accurately reflect the tupuna (ancestor) the street is named after. 

Council says the new street name correctly recognises Hōniana Te Puni, a prominent Te Āti Awa leader who played a significant role in shaping Wellington’s cultural history. 

Born in Taranaki in the late 18th century, Hōniana Te Puni was a chief of the Ngāti Tāwhirikura and Ngāti Te Whiti hapū of Te Āti Awa. In the early 1830s he was one of the leaders of the hekenga (migration) that travelled from Taranaki to the greater Wellington region. 

In 1839, he and Te Wharepōuri, another chief of Te Āti Awa and a signatory on Te Tiriti in 1840, signed an agreement to sell land in the present-day Wellington City to the New Zealand Company, with a tenth of the land to be set apart for Māori.

Tākai Here partners have advised that the use of Epuni as the street name is inappropriate as it was a colloquial term used in conversation between Māori in certain circumstances, similar to the use of e hoa (friend) today. This name appears to have been recorded in error by early Wellington settlers, Council said in a statement.

The Council engaged with Tākai Here partners Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika and Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa ki te Upoko o Te Ika a Māui to reach consensus on the name correction.

“The preference from our partners was to rename Epuni Street to his full name as the shorter Te Puni Street is already in use in Petone,” it said.

“This aligns with the Council’s naming policy, Te Māpihi Maurea, which provides guidelines and principles to be considered when deciding the name of roads, open spaces, and Council facilities.”

The policy includes criteria for using te reo Māori where a location is important to mana whenua and using names that tell stories about the history of the place.

Mayor, Tory Whanau says the name correction also fits with the Council’s Te Tauihu policy, recognising the status of te reo Māori as a taonga and supporting the revitalisation of the language within Council activities and Wellington City.

“Following on from correcting Waripori to Te Wharepōuri Street in Berhampore in 2020, this latest renaming is part of our efforts to correct te reo Māori names around the city,” she said.

“For all sorts of reasons, some streets, towns and geographical features have been incorrectly named over the years. It’s time we set the record straight.

“Not only is it the right thing to do but it underpins the value and commitment of Council to our Tākai Here partnership, to our partnership with mana whenua and our commitment to raising the status of te reo Māori.”

Morris Love (Taranaki, Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Ruanui) who is a direct descendant of Hōniana Te Puni, contributed historical accounts of his tupuna to Council and supported the investigation into the inappropriate use of Epuni Street.

“Hōniana Te Puni is one of the founders of Wellington and is not well recognised in the colloquial use of ‘Epuni’ which some would see as degrading. The change will help people understand an important part of Wellington’s history by naming him correctly.”

“There are surprisingly few ancestral names used in Wellington City, which is dominated by New Zealand Company names and other colonial names. This correction makes it clear who the tupuna is. 

“There are other tupuna who could be regarded as founders of Wellington City from a Māori perspective such as Ngatata i Te Rangi, Hemi Parae, and many others including women. Street naming is one way to give another form of recognition of their place in history.”

The corrected name will be unveiled by Wellington City Council, direct descendants of Hōniana Te Puni, and local residents and school students at a ceremony this week.

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