Recognising original Māori place names

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Two iconic East Coast place names of Ngāti Porou, Whangaōkeno and Wharekahika, are now legally recognised alongside the colonial names of East Island and Hicks Bay bestowed by Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour.  Wharekāhika is between Matakaoa and Haupara Point on the East Coast.

Campbell Dewes is the principal at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti, in Wharekāhika.

“To my knowledge, "Hick" was an officer on the Endeavour, when he was on watch he spotted the bay and Captain Cook named it Hicks Bay,” he says.

The names are now recognised by the New Zealand Geographic Board through the passing of the Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019.

“So Wharekahika is the name and is relevant to the Wharekahika Tribal Committee- and is the name known by the people of this place.

“The kahika relates to the houses here, and [alternative name] Whata-kai-ika-a-Rerekohu, due to the abundance of fish- it also represents the hospitality of Rerekohu in his time as he was well-known for hospitality, so Te Whata-kai-ika-a-Rerekohu is another name.”

Also recongised recognised by the New Zealand Geographic Board is Whangaokeno, more commonly referred to as Whangaokena, a historical landmark of the Ngāti Porou people and mentioned in the song He Wiwi Nati by Sir Apirana Ngata.

 “The Mangarara canoe belonging to Wheketoro landed there, with its insects and reptiles, including the Tuatara.  Another name is Te Motu Tapu o Kaiawa. The name East Island, I don't know where that came from.”

In the words of the late Sir Apirana Ngata, "From Whangaokena, from Hikurangi, are the extraordinary people of Ngāti Porou".