Wellington convention centre named Tākina, botanic gardens area named Paekākā

3:21 pm on 13 August 2020

At a meeting this morning, the council unanimously approved the name of the Convention and Exhibition Centre, Tākina, meaning 'to invoke'. The $179 million building is under construction opposite Te Papa Tongarewa.

Wellington Convention and Exhibition centre View from Wakefield St

Illustration of planned Wellington Convention and Exhibition centre Photo: Supplied / Wellington City Council

The council also formally accepted the name Paekākā for the area that includes the Wellington Botanic Garden, Anderson Park, and Bolton Street Cemetery. The council will now go to the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa to make the name official.

Only 12 percent of the city's streets are, or could be known as, te reo Māori words.

However, councillor Sean Rush criticised the council's policy of how it decides what to name new buildings.

"We've talked a lot about inclusivity, and yet, the vast majority of Wellingtonians have been excluded from this process," he said.

Wellington City councillor Sean Rush

Wellington City councillor Sean Rush Photo: WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

The name, Tākina, was developed by Cato Brand Partners, and in consultation with Mana Whenua (Kura Moeahu and Pekaira Rei representing Taranaki Whānui).

In August last year, the council adopted the Naming Policy Te Māpihi Maurea. The policy stipulates the council must consider the following when deciding the names of roads, open spaces, council facilities, suburbs, localities and developments:

  • Ensure that names reflect the city's unique identity, culture and environment, and help tell stories about the history, geography, and heritage of Wellington
  • Support Te Tauihu, the council's Te Reo Māori policy, for Wellington to be a te reo capital city by 2040, and reflect wider Government obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Reflect the importance of the Memoranda of Understanding with our Treaty partners Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira
  • Ensure that the process of determining appropriate names takes account of the views of interested parties and communities, including mana whenua

Rush said he was unconvinced about the direction of the strategy, and what it meant for the city.

"I have got some real concerns about the road we're going down here. We've given special rights to a number of Wellingtonians, who actually descend from Taranaki, mixed with some early settlers, and yet people like my family don't get a say in it.

"I think this ongoing process is actually divisive, and not bringing us together. I will support the name, but I think we need to have a think about including people from all our ethnic backgrounds."

He Kura Hau / A Place of Treasured Winds

The building was subject to an extensive naming strategy, headed by Cato Brand Partners.

Kura Moeahu, Te Atiawa representative and member of Wellington Institute of Technology's Māori Advisory Board.

Kura Moeahu, Te Atiawa representative and member of Wellington Institute of Technology's Māori Advisory Board. Photo: RNZ / Laura Bootham

In partnership with Taranaki Whānui kaumatua, Kura Moeahu, a central theme to the naming was established: "Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington harbour) is renowned for its unique and diverse winds - from those that rage across the harbour to the softer and more welcoming winds. Together they make Wellington a unique place in the world."

Through the process of engagement, Moeahu gifted a karakia to council for the building, the first three lines of which are:

"Tū tākina te hau ka riri

Tū tākina te hau ka nguha

Tū tākina ngā hau o te tonga

Encounter, invoke the raging wind

Encounter, invoke the fierce winds

Encounter, invoke the winds of the south"

The name Tākina was chosen, due to its presence in the beginning of the karakia. "'Tākina' calls on the raging winds to welcome all visitors and deliver peace, tranquility and knowledge," a council report stated.

Rush said he did support the name and the story behind it.

Other councillors, during Thursday morning's meeting, supported the new name, as well as the direction of the naming policy.

"There has been a great deal of exclusivity, because most names in our city are European ones," said councillor Iona Pannett.

"What this process is about is not that one culture should dominate over another, it's about just saying we're going to have a balance of names, we're going to honour our Treaty obligations, and we're going to celebrate the fact that we have a rich and diverse culture and history, and that is only a positive thing."

An artist's impression of the Wellington Convention Centre as viewed from the entrance to Te Papa.

An artist's impression of the Wellington Convention Centre as viewed from the entrance to Te Papa. Photo: Supplied

Councillor Jill Day, who is portfolio leader for Māori partnerships, said: "Our public buildings do need to tell more local stories.

"We have very few iconic buildings, which actually speak to our buildings. When we talk about the history, actually what we're doing is taking Aotearoa into a contemporary context, where Māori is very much acknowledged as a founding part of our communities, because that is where this country started from."

Tākina not the only name questioned

During the Strategy and Policy Committee meeting, the council also formally acknowledged the gift of the name Paekākā for the area which includes the Wellington Botanic Garden, Anderson Park and Bolton Street Cemetery.

When the name was first suggested back in September last year, councillor Simon Woolf questioned its appropriateness.

In an email to councillor Jill Day, he said: "While I like the idea of te reo [Māori] being used more widely, and especially where it is appropriate, there is a large segment of our community who for one reason or another (and believe it or not, most isn't race related) do not wish to see an unreasonable use of te reo seen in places where there may not be significance."

The Duck Pond at the Wellington Botanical garden, New Zealand

Wellington Botanic Garden Photo: 123RF

No such objections were made at the meeting this morning, where the name was approved unanimously.

The name Paekākā translates to the realm/perch of the kākā parrot. It dates back to pre-European times, when it described the area where kākā were abundant and often trapped for food.

Earlier this year, the council officially changed the name of Waripori Street to Te Wharepōuri Street to reflect the correct spelling of the Māori chief Te Wharepōuri (Ngāti Tāwhirikura, Te Āti Awa), one of the 500 chiefs who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Day said with such a small proportion of Wellington's streets given te reo Māori names, there were opportunities to expand.

"We've got lots of opportunities to get things right, and to also correct the record and to help our community understand our history and what those names were, and what they can be again."

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