19 Apr 2023

Russell readies for possible name change to Kororāreka

6:01 pm on 19 April 2023
Russell in Te Tai Tokerau/Northland.

Kororāreka translates to sweet penguin - the little blue penguin being the kororā and reka meaning sweet. Photo: 123RF

One of the main advocates behind a proposal to restore the original Māori name to the Bay of Islands town of Russell is confident it has the support needed.

Submissions to restore the name Kororāreka closed yesterday, and a result by the Geographic Board is due back later this year.

Kororāreka Marae Society chairperson Deb Rewiri has held a series of public meetings about the proposal, which has been open for submission for the last three months.

Rewiri was confident the majority were in favour.

"Between say 80 and 93 percent were in favour. Some of them wanted to retain Russell so have Kororāreka/Russell but we said the New Zealand mapping board are not in favour of having dual names."

The original name Kororāreka comes from the story of a sick chief who after given a soup made from the little blue penguin, declared how sweet the penguin was.

Kororāreka translates to sweet penguin - the little blue penguin being the kororā and reka meaning sweet.

It was renamed by settlers some time in the 1840s, after the leader of the British House of Commons, Lord John Russell, a man who never set foot in Aotearoa.

Rewiri said a name change made sense, and would give the town more of an identity.

"A lot of people that had businesses under the name of Russell, b-n-b businesses - we said that doesn't change, that doesn't matter.

"What we're looking for and someone rightly said what we're looking at is that there are 29 towns within the world that are called Russell, there will only be one Kororāreka."

The Far North District Council supported the proposed change.

But Deputy Mayor Kelly Stratford said there were some reservations, such as whether there would be funding to change signage around town.

Some residents were upset about a possible change including for postage reasons, she said.

"Some of them have been concerned about address changes but let's face it, hardly any people use the post.

"When you go to do your online ordering, that will automatically update with the freighting company. So when you start to put in your address it'll automatically change to Kororāreka."

But whatever the outcome, Kororāreka was already in common use, Stratford said.

"If it doesn't change I think there will still be use of Kororāreka and the very prominent signage that's already in place and using of Kororāreka.

"If it does go through, I think we'll see more signage and just that recognition will be something really exciting."

Rewiri said she did not see any logic to keeping the name Russell.

"Even to the point where we've said to people 'Please don't write you hate the name Kororāreka, because it won't get any traction'.

"Put some rationale behind your thinking. I wanted people to think more deeply around why they didn't want the restoration of the name Kororāreka."

Land Information NZ said it was still counting how many submissions were received before they were presented to the Geographic Board - Pou Taunaha - in June.

But, in a statement it said its decision-making was not driven by numbers on either side, and it would base its choice on the reasons in the submissions.

If Pou Taunaha was unable to make a decision based on the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008 it would then be referred to the minister for land information.

Either way, a final decision was likely this year, it said.

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