Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Search options

 The Old Waterfront, p 48 The Streets of my city, Wellington New Zealand,
by F. L. Irvine-Smith. (1948).

Part Two : Chapter Four
Early Maori Place Names

Contents: a letter | Part One chapters: 1 | 2 | Part Two chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
Part Three chapters: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Appendix

Whakawateatia he huarahi mo mea ma.
(Let us clear a road for our friends)

VERY few Maori names trickled into the nomenclature of the early city streets. Although the native population at the arrival of the "First Ships" was fairly numerous, there was little intercourse, officially speaking, between two such widely divergent races. The first barter of land over, each side went its way. Moreover, Colonel Wakefield and his lieutenants, as agents for the Company's principals in the Old Land, impelled by duties and favours past and to come, were already well provided with names to perpetuate in their new sphere.

Again, the Port Nicholson Ngatiawa were friendly, but the outlying Ngatitoa under Te Rauparaha displayed from the first open hostility to the incoming pakeha. Matters came to a head at the Wairau Battle (1843) when twentytwo of the Company's Nelson immigrants were killed, including Captain Arthur Wakefie!d, R.N., brother of Colonel Wakefield and Principal Agent for the Company at Nelson. The war, thus begun, dragged on till 1846, one of the storm centres being the Hutt Valley, much of which was claimed by the Ngatitoa, where the settlers lived in daily fear of extermination by Te Rauparaha and his kind. Under such circumstances, the paucity of early Maori street names is Iittle to be wondered at.

Most of the Maoris in Wellington were "Awa" people, who had come from Taranaki in 1824-5, and after a short sojourn in Otaki, had passed on to the shores of Whanganui a Tara (Port Nicholson). In 1839, when the "Tory" arrived, they were gathered into six pas of any size - Pito-one (now know as Petone), Ngahauranga, Kai-whara-whara, (Kaiwarra) Pipitea, Kumutoto and Te Aro. Of these: -

(a) The most important was Pito-one (the edge of the sand) presided over by Te Puni, the paramount chief of Port Nicholson. The pa was situated at the western end of the sandy Petone beach, while at the eastern end, the main river of the valley, the Heretaunga (Hutt) entered the sea.
(b) Ngahauranga (the landing-place) was the residence of the great fighting chief of the Ngatiawa. This was Wharepouri, a cousin of the great Te Puni. He had seen "active service" in many parts, including the epic fight at Pukerangiora, on the Waitara River, when the invading Waikatos had almost annihilated the Taranakis, and later in 1832 in the struggle at Ngamotu (Sugar Loaves) when the Taranakis, assisted by Dicky Barrett and his whaling friends, for a time warded off the persistent Waikatos. Wharepouri, like his kinsman Te Puni, was a staunch friend of the Company, but did not live long to enjoy its protection. He died in 1841 and was buried at Ngahauranga, where his tomb, an upright half-buried canoe, was long a landmark. It was finally removed by Mr. Hapi Love, his grandson-in-law, to the native cemetery in Te Puni Street, Petone.
(c) Kaiwharawhara, so named after the wharawhara or kupe, a native lily (Astelia banksii) was inhabited by Ngati-tama, distinct from the Ngatiawa, and presided over by TaringaKuri or Dog's Ear, a chief at all times hostile to the inroads of the white settler, and much opposed to the sale of any Maori land. In 1840 dense bush at Kaiwharawhara extended to the water's edge, but by 1842 a saw-mill was in full swing. Later its place was taken by a flour-mill, the dam of which was conspicuous from the Gorge Road until the erection of the present Atlantic Union oil stores in 1927. When the "Blenheim" arrived in December, 1840, from Clyde with its shipload of Highlanders and Paisley weavers, they landed at Kaiwharawhara, where a large raupo shelter had been erected by the Company for their accommodation. Here they remained some time until they drifted away, some to the Hutt, some to Porirua and some to the Rangitikei district, though a few remained to found the "Scotch village" of Kaiwharawhara. In the little cemetery at Pahautanui may be seen some of the graves of these "Blenheim" settlers.
(d) Pipitea Pa, which took its name from the plentiful supply of pipis at hand, was situated round about the site of the present Railway Hotel on Thorndon Quay. The natives here were all Ngatiawas, and the equipment and housing were superior to that of the other pas. It was also the most thickly populated city pa, and the census of July 1st, 1842, gives a return of Pipitea 134 Maoris, Te Aro 128, Kaiwharawhara 60 and Ngahauranga 48.
(e) Kumutoto, the smallest pa, occupied the site of the Wellington Club, and the Kumutoto stream, which rose near Victoria College, followed the gully behind Wellington Terrace and turned down to the sea along Woodward Street, where Lindsay's Corner, the site of the first Wellington School, was known as "Kumutoto Corner." Soon after the arrival of the white settlers, the Kumutoto natives removed to Ngahauranga. Their chief was Wi Tako, who lived to become a member of the Legislative Council.
(f) The Te Aro Pa was situated where the nine-storeyed modern building of A. Levy Ltd., now stands. It was occupied partly by permanent Awas and partly by visiting Taranakis. The population was very fluctuating, and the set-up of the pa very dilapidated.

The "New Zealand Journal" (September 14th, 1844) gives an account of the transaction whereby the Te Aro natives assigned their title to Mr. Shortland, the Colonial Secretary, for £300 in English shillings, £200 in shillings being given at the same time for the title of the Kumutoto Pa.

As stated, the paramount chief was Te Puni, with his headquarters at Pito-one, whither he had migrated from Taranaki in 1832. Te Puni was quite shrewd enough to realise the protection to be afforded by the Company's settlers, and warmly welcomed the "Tory" on its arrival. Together with Wharepouri, he concluded an immediate settlement with Colonel Wakefield for the sale of Maori land, and entered upon what proved to be a lasting alliance with the incoming race. Later on Te Puni was a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, and in the native troubles between Te Rauparaha and the settlers, he gave the latter every assistance in his power, in recognition of which he was in 1848 presented by Alexander Currie, Chairman of Directors of the New Zealand Company, with a silver cup, still in possession of his descendants. On the erection of the first public hospital in Wellington, Te Puni was made one of the official visitors, and was further honoured by Sir George Grey by being invited to be one of the esquires at the Governor's investiture. On the death in 1848 of his staunch friend and patron, Colonel Wakefield, he acted as one of the pall-bearers, and when in 1870, full of years and honours, he himself in his 94th year passed to his rest, he was borne to the grave by seven of the city's leading citizens. (1)

The Pito-one Pa is no more. Today its place is occupied by the little native cemetery on "the edge of the sand" and in it lies the rangatira Te Puni, whose life encompassed so many and such stirring scenes. Nearby rush busy trains. On all sides factories hum. But the same waves lap the neighbouring sand, the same hills look down that saw the "Tory" come to port - the herald of another race that was to write in gratitude on a Maori's tomb: -

"To the memory of Honiana Te Puni,
a Chief of Ngatiawa, who died
on the 5th December, 1870. This
Monument is erected by the New Zealand
Government in consideration of the
unbroken friendship between him and the

We should therefore certainly expect to find, as we do, street names commemorating the services of both Te Puni and Wharepouri, though it may not be too much to expect a more accurate spelling than that of "Waripori" Street.

Pipitea Street, overlooking the old site of Pipitea Pa, is one of the city's quiet streets, and this notwithstanding the presence of half a thousand school girls making daily use of its pavements. It is a street of many memories. How often from the pa below, did bands of natives thread its forest track when snaring birds or other bipeds. How often did they come in later days with pains and ills to seek the aid of much revered "Takuta" (doctor). The first Wellington Public Hospital was established in Pipitea Street in 1847, its grounds the space from the corner of Murphy Street northwards, including the present site of the Wellington Girls' College, erected in 1887, and here it remained until it was removed to Newtown in the early seventies. The flight of steps still leading from Pipitea Street to Thorndon Quay, via Moore Street, was always known to the early settlers as the "Hospital Steps."

This hospital catered for both races and its first Superintendent was Dr. John Patrick Fitzgerald (1815-1897) who arrived in the "Oriental" in January, 1840 as surgeon-superintendent to the Company. He became deeply interested in Maori welfare, and as a testimonial to his efficient management of the institution, Earl Grey in 1849 presented to the hospital a framed engraving of the young Queen. Whereupon the Doctor, with true Irish hospitality, retaliated with a dinner to the native chiefs, for the purpose of paying honour to the portrait of the Queen. And all London smacked its lips at the sight of the generous spread, viewed by way of the excellent engraving of the banquet by T. H. Marriott, that found its way the same year into the pagcs of the "Illustrated London News."

Sir George Grey was equally impressed by the skill and service rendeaed to both races by Dr. Fitzgerald, and when in 1854 the Doctor found himself a lonely widower, he betook himself to Cape Colony, where Sir George was then Governor, and for thirtyfive years remained as Superintendent of King William's Hospital. He retired to England in 1891 with a life of useful service to his credit.

Another interesting feature of early days, for the punishment of drunkenness and minor offences, were the Wellington Stocks, situated near the "cross-roads" of Murphy, Mulgrave and Pipitea Streets, to the north side of St. Paul's Church. In writing still extant, these have been described by Mr. John Waters, an arrival in 1841 in the "Slains Castle," as consisting of two halves of a heavy beam divided longitudinally, supplied at one end with a hinge and the other with a padlock, and pierced with holes large enough to admit a man's ankle. Behind was a low wooden bench upon which the delinquent sat. There were three sets of stocks which were frequently well pationised, especially by Maoris and sailormen on a Monday morning.

Dr. Fitzgerald himself lived in Pipitea Street, at the Molesworth Street corner. Mrs. Fitzgerald had a lovely singing voice - and a piano! "Her brogue," writes Mrs. Godley, "is very strong, but very pleasant." Another resident of earlier days at No. 13, still standing, was Mrs. Medley, the wife of Captain Medley, R.N., acting private secretary during two years' absence from the navy, to Governor Grey. Mrs. Medley was the daughter of the Rev. Richard Taylor (1805-1873), one of the Colony's earliest and most prominent missionaries. Richard Taylor was a man of the widest culture, a gifted writer, as well as an able geologist and botanist, and has given his name to one of the strangest and most highly specialised of our plants, the only New Zealand member of the order - a root parasite that comes up to the surface to flower, though no more a fungus that a penguin is a fish. (see Balanophoraceae, Plants of New Zealand, Laing and Blackwell). It is said to have been discovered in 1857, near the headwaters of the Wanganui River. The Maoris knew of it and called it Pua-o-te-reinga and specimens were sent by the Rev. Taylor to Dr. Hooker, the English botanist. Some years ago, having reason to believe that it had been seen in the Ngatoro Gorge, a party camping on Mount Egmont made systematic efforts for a week to find it, but dispersed without any success, leaving to follow later on the unbotanical section of the party who, of course, chanced upon some fine specimens directly the others had disappeared. Hence the writer arrived in Wellington to find an urgent wire announcing: "Found the Pterodactyl." (Dactylanthus taylori)

In a small cottage on the site of the present No. 31, there lived in the opening years of the century a simple Scot, who made his home for many years with a pair of friendly compatriots. He was a principal of the firm of Waddell, McLeod and Weir, Timber Merchants, which for sixtyfive years carried on business in timber yards between Johnston and Waring Taylor Streets. When he died in 1926, William Weir left to Victoria University College the princely sum of between £70,000 and £80,000, with the result that one of the finest structures to catch the eye of the traveller sailing into Lambton Harbour today is Weir House, (2) the impressive University Men's Hostel on the Kelburn Heights.

Speaking of timber, Barry and McDowell, early contractors, had their timber yards in Pipitea Street. In 1880 they built the old Police Station and the Supreme Court, which took the place of the first Courthouse erected in 1842 in Mulgrave Street, almost opposite the present St. Paul's Church.

At No. 35, now replaced by a new residence, lived the sweet singer, Miss Winifred Upham, who for no less than fiftyseven years was a member of St. Paul's Choir, and the friend and colleague of that notable organist, Mr. Robert Parker. These two were for long the Grand Old Pair of St. Paul's music, not forgetting Mrs. Parsons, whose beautiful, bird-like soprano delighted congregations until after her eightieth year.

Miss Upham's silver-sweet soprano and her sympathetic rendering of ballads and "old songs" gave endless enjoyment to musical and nonmusical alike, and one of the happiest interests of Lady Plunket wae to fill her sunny drawingroom at Government House with busy working mothers, who knitted and sewed while she dispensed hospitality with her true Irish grace, and Miss Upham sang to them song after song from the numbers they loved. In 1943, Winifred Upham (1)

passed on to the Choir Celestial.

Robert Parker, C.M.G. (1847-1937), the doyen of musical art in Wellington, died in his 90th year, having completed his fifty eighth year of service as organist and choirmaster of St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, as well as being for over forty years Wellington's leading choral conductor. Not only was he a great musician; he was in every sense of the term a "Great Gentleman" and as such was ensconced in the hearts and minds of hosts of Wellingtonians. It was a great privilege even to meet the G.O.M. and receive his gracious bow and courteous greeting, and Musical Wellington could always remember to be for the threatened decline in health that had set a musician of such erudition and standards in their midst.

Mr. Parker loved his art and could never suffer gladly those who merely affected to do so by putting in an appearance at musical functions - a species by no means extinct. There is an oft-repeated story of a lengthy pause in a musical passage at one of his choral concerts - presumably unnoticed by some, and broken by the very audible remark: "I always fry mine in butter."

Runing parallel to Pipitea Street is Little Pipitea Street, known to old identities as "Craig's Lane," after an early resident, and, later still, as "Tar Lane."

North from Pipitea Street, along the front boundary of the Girls' College, lies Moturoa Street, named after one of the chiefs of Pipitea Pa, the other two being Porutu and Wairarapa. This in turn passes into Davis Street, which takes its name from a Maori, who, in the early forties, spoke a little English, dressed a little English, acquired an English name and acted as a native interpreter. (See Wakefield's "Adventure in New Zealand".) He owned the schooner "Maori Davis," the first vessel built (1842) for a bonafide native owner. To offset this, it may be noted that Hiropi Street commemorates no Maori potentate but an erstwhile city father af high renown, sometime Member of Parliament, plus the portfolios of Education and Justice - Mr. Thomas Hislop (in Maori "Hiropi") who for the four years ending 1908 worthily filled the Mayoral Chair. A son, T. C. A. Hislop, C.M.G., followed his example from 1931 to 1944. Grandfather John Hislop, LL.D., F.R.S., arrived in Otago in 1856 and had much to do with putting its education on a sound basis.

Brook Street has Maori associations. It may possibly be called after a brook which formerly flowed at the foot of the street, but is more often said to have been named after the notorious interpreter Brook, whose tongue was cut out by the Ngatitoa after the Wairau Massacre in 1843.

Etymologically speaking, Tinakori Road is an undignified name for a most dignified thoroughfare. The name is a mixture of inaccurate Maori and pidgin English. Tina = dinner (Maori has no d) and Kore = a contraction of Kahore meaning "none," and the combination is said to relate to the discontent of the Maori workmen at the postponement of their dinner upon the day of the completion of the road.' The name should at all events be spelt with a final "e.", Name aside, it is a beautiful stretch of highway, following without a bend the foot of the Ahu-mai-rangi Heights, commonly called the Tinakori Hills, and extending for a mile - eightyfive chains to be exact - from the main Botanical Gardens gate almost to the sea. In the 1841 plan of the city of Wellington the only streets laid out leading from Tinakori Road to the higher land behind are Park Street, George Street, Harriett Street and St, Mary Street.

To all appearance, Tinakori Road is an entity in itself, somewhat reminiscent of the single streets of the "longest" of the fen villages-Soham, perhaps - or Cottenham - a bit of everything, running the whole gamut as it were, of the social scale, commencing at the Gardens end with dwellings of the most modest type, and gathering social status as it glides on towards the sea, until it bourgeons into some of the most substantial homes the city has produced.

In upper Tinakori Road was the well-known inn, the "Shepherd's Arms," whose place is now taken by the "Western Park Hotel." The "Shepherd's Arms" had been established in 1870 by C. H. Gillespie, who as a boy of ten reached Wellington with his parents and family in the "Birman" in 1842, but the record of Mr. Gillespie, Senr., as a pioneer was not destined to be a lengthy one, as he was tomahawked with a son by the Maoris at the Hutt in 1846. Time was when into the yard of the old inn clattered once a daythe Karori coach, and in its capacious stables the team was rated and refreshed, ready for the return journey later in the day, or, if necessary, re-shod in Leyden's Shoeing Forge across the way. The Forge has long since gone - no horses left to shoe - and in its place stands a block of modern flats, the "Wilmor Flats," commemorating one of our very oldest city fathers, Thomas Wilmor McKenzie (1827-1911) and erected by his son.

Next to the "Shepherd's Arms," kept by the genial Charles Gillespie, was the Sydney Street cutting where, a few yards up the slope, stood cne of Wellington's earliest kindergartens - "Granny Cooper's School." How came Mr. McMorran to omit from his delightful little book on early Wellington schools such an academy of learning? There are still two pioneers alive, probably more - Mr. William Bramley of Johnsonville and Mr. Marcus Marks of Eastbourne, who testify to the wholesome social start in life they acquired through the wisdom and understanding of dear Granny Cooper. Like the little man in the nursery rhyme, it was all on a tiny scale. A tiny little house one room wide, a tiny little playground at one side, and a tiny little teacher, spectacled and rosycheeked, in print bonnet and voluminous skirts. The scholastic equipment was equally tiny, consisting in the main of a sheet containing the alphabet in large and small letters - Aa, Bb, Cc - the combined method of attack being to recite each capital fortissimo and follow up each outburst with a pianissimo rendering of its smaller counterpart. Little songs to brighten the morning hours (no school in the afternoon), little games, and no doubt little fights to let off steam which can generate so rapidly in the tiniest boilers. And for older ones, boys and girls alike, little daily attempts at mastering the mystery of knitting. "My brother," says Mrs. Bramley (aged 89), "took to it so readily that for many years he knitted his own stockings. He was a cripple." All this for sixpence a week! It is pleasant to think that good host Gillespie never missed sending in a bit of hot dinner to his old neighbour, who for her part never missed, from her slender store, providing for the Friday treat, when each young Cooper collegian sat down to a drink of clear water and the "treat" - a small piece of toffee, or maybe of coconut, and, filled with sweetness and satisfaction, went home longing for the next week to begin.

Mrs. Cooper's little house is still standing, and in use, though the "playground" is now occupied by a twwstoreyed residence and a double garage.

But the romantic days of Tinakori Road are over. Historically thinking, it is a rendezvous of ghosts. Stately gardens that once extended from Grant Road to Tinakori Road are long since villas and quarteracre sections - or less. Here once dwelt those merchant princes, the Levins, the Johnstons and the Pharazyns, who gave of their best to the city of their adoption. Here in those early formative days lived the Great Founder himself; here too, Dr. Featherston, the beloved Superintendent, Major Heaphy, Captain Mein Smith, Charles Borlase, Sir H. Beauchamp, Thomas Bracken, Sir William Fox, the Dorsets, the Tregears, the Gears, the Davys, the Claphams, the Benzonis, the Gudgeons, the Earls, to say nothing of, in later years, New Zealand's Prime Ministers, whose official residence, since 1937 a dental clinic, embowered in almost four acres of spreading lawns and trees, is now but a political memory. They are all gone into that World of Light, and only the shadows remain - the deep, brooding shadows of the Ahu-mai-rangi Heights, which come and go - for ever.

Pitarua Street, off Harriet St., off Tinakori Road, has a strange derivation, and means literally "the two Pitts," since the land cut up belonged to Ihaia Porutu, a chief of the Pipitea Pa, and his brother. Orangi-Kaupapa Road, further along, was so called because the road adjoins the old native reserve of Orangi-Kaupapa, which should probably be correctly spelt as "Aorangi Kaupapa."

Taranaki Street is so named because at the time of the arrival of the first settlers in 1840, the Te Aro Pa was inhabited by natives from Taranaki. It was in consequence often referred to as the "Taranaki Pa," and being situated on the foreshore at the bottom of where Taranaki Street was surveyed, the thoroughfare thus obtained its name.

Aro Street takes its name from the so-called Aro Stream which trickled down from the gully, and entered the sea at the foot of Taranaki Street. The correct Maori name for this stream was the Wai-Mapihi, but city records early referred to it as the Te Aro Stream, inasmuch as it ran through Te Aro Flat.

Aotea Wharf perpetuates the Maori name for New Zealand, Te Aotearoa, a name of sheer melody (running a close second to Wainui-o-mata) and meaning the Long White Cloud.

Hinemoa Street, a name given at the suggestion of Councillor Bennett, brother of the Bishop of Aotearoa, unites Fryatt and Waterloo Quays, and perpetuates a pretty Maori legend of a type that finds expression in the annals of almost any race, where a lovely maiden (always lovely) escaping from an unyielding parent, takes her life in her hands to join her lover, and wins on the hundredth chance. An early Government steamer that was probably in Councillor Bennett's thoughts, was also called the "Hinemoa," and its successor, the "Tutanekai" after the fortunate lover of the legend, both being at different times commanded by Captain Fairchild (1835-1898), one of the best known and most popular "salts" on the New Zealand coast.

Possibly no vessel was more part and parcel of the colony's official doings in the past than the little "Hinemoa" (542 tons) which made her last voyage in August, 1944, when she was towed out to be sunk between Lyttelton and Cape Campbell in naval action practice.

For two years New Zealand was without a "Hinemoa" until on May 10th, 1946, there was launched from the yards of Vickers-Armstrong a new "Hinemoa," (542 tons), for the Union Steam Ship Company's interisland express service. The ceremony was performed by Mrs. Falla, widow of the late Brigadier N. S. Falla, former Chairman of Directors of the Union Company. "Hinemoa II" is capable of carrying nine hundred passengers. Long may she do so!

Another of the well-known Wellington salts of former years was Captain D. A. Kennedy who reached Nelson in the S.S. "Nelson," March 4th, 1854, and from then on to his retirement in 1893 played a prominent part in charge of vessels plying around the New Zealand coast. On one occasion, in 1866, during the Maori War, he was retained to convey to the distant Chathams, Te Kooti and his followers, all of whom were installed in a pa of their own, only to escape later and return to New Zealand with consequent dcstruction of European life and the temporary reduce tion of its military prestige. The last charge of Captain Kennedy, who closed his nautical career as senior captain of the Union Steam Ship Company, the "Commodore of the Fleet," was the S.S. "Rotomahana," which had earned the proud distinction of "Greyhound of the Fleet," this being signalised by a metal greyhound fastened to the masthead, a source of much interest to the local seaminded boys of the day. His grandson, Mr. A. P. Kennedy, is at present Headmaster of the city's first Intermediate School.

Para Street, Miramar, lies in the vicinity of the old Para Lagoon, whose name was changed in the early days to Burnham Water, in memory of Burnham Hall, the Sussex home of the Wakefields. So also Burnham Wharf and Burnham Street. In 1847 Burnham Water was drained by Mr. J. C. Crawford by a tunnel to the sea (the first tunnel made in New Zealand) and became the earliest racecourse in the Colony.

Of late years Wellington Maori street names have become much more numerous. These largely take the form of names of native flora - Hoherea, Kowhai, Konini, Kauri, Karamu, Koromiko, Karaka, Manuka, Matai, Miro, Ngaio, Nikau, Puriri, Rata, Rimu, Raupo, Totara, Taea, Tainui - all Wellington street names. A few birds for a change - Tui , Weka, Kakariki, Moa. Some Maori place names - Mana, Taupo, Waikato, Waikare, Pahia, Hauraki, Onehunga and now and again a personage - Pomare, Tiotio, Te Whiti, Heke, Kupe.
1. Sir Donald McLean, Messrs. J. 0. Crawford, G. Drawford, Hunter, Ludlam, Fltzherbert and Lyon.
Part Two : Chapter Five : Church Streets

Heritage Links (Local History)