Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Street name changes “don’t mean we can forget”

  Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

The Kiingitanga is supporting Hamilton City Council’s decision to replace location names that have “caused anguish” for iwi Māori.

The decision to rename Von Tempsky Street to Putikitiki Street and the nearby Dawson Park to Te Wehenga Park, is supported by the Kiingitanga and Waikato-Tainui.

It comes after debate for the city to revisit street names honouring colonial figures such as Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky, Sir George Grey and John Bryce.

“These name changes reflect an earlier part of our history, and it is important that their narrative and koorero is known,” Kiingitanga official Ngira Simmonds says.

Despite the decision, Simmonds says the removal of other names does not mean we can forget the wrongs committed to iwi Māori in the Waikato.

“Puutikitiki and Te Wehenga are names of significance that better represent and celebrate our heritage, whakapapa and also give a glimpse of hope for the future. We congratulate the Mayor and Council on this most wonder decision.”

Tukoroirangi Morgan, the chairperson of Te Arataura, the executive committee of Te Whakakitenga, the governance body of Waikato-Tainui, reflected on Waikato’s history during the meeting.

“Von Tempsky is a reminder of a past filled with despair and anguish and injustice,” he said.

“For 159 years our people have had to carry the weight of history, of injustice, of wrongdoing, of murder, for a long, long time,”

Putikitiki references the gully area behind Hamilton East School which was part of the Putikitiki block that Ngaati Parekirangi, a subtribe of Ngaati Wairere, occupied prior to 1864. During discussions, it was noted that tikitiki is the traditional ‘top-knot’ hairstyle worn by high-ranking Maaori chiefs and warriors.

Te Wehenga is the historic Ngaati Parekirangi – Ngaati Haanui urupa (burial ground) that was destroyed when the road cutting went through this land next to the School.

The site is considered sacred and the new name recognises the significance of the place for mana whenua Ngaati Wairere.
Twelve committee members supported the application, but Deputy mayor Geoff Taylor, Cr Ewan Wilson, and Cr Rob Pascoe had reservations about the name change.
Cr Wilson says what happened in the past is unforgivable by today’s standards, but it did occur.
“When you look at what happened in those times, they were unforgivable by today’s standards, they were unforgivable by today’s lens- but they occurred.”

Cr Kesh Naidoo-Rauf says her ancestors had also suffered injustice and understood the pain mana whenua may feel seeing Von Tempsky’s name honoured.

“My people were sent around the world as indentured labourers from the mid 1800s and suffered many unforgivable atrocities so I feel personal pain as well,” she says.
“I don’t think we’re erasing history, we’re in fact highlighting history and creating conversations about the past. Most importantly I think we’re taking an opportunity to shape our future. Our history is something we carry with us and can never be changed.”