Far North Council supports Russell-Kororāreka name change, but with conditions

  • 19/01/2023
Far North Council supports Russell-Kororāreka name change, but with conditions
Photo credit: Google Maps.

The Mayor for the Far North supports changing the name Russell back to Kororāreka, but the public needs to have a proper say.

It comes after Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa/the New Zealand Geographic Board (the Board) asked the public for feedback yesterday on its proposal to change a few place names around the motu.

Moko Tepania, the first Māori Mayor for the Far North says he's in favour of restoring the original name, but with conditions.

"In local government spaces, you make sure you do proper public consultation to gauge feedback from the wider community," he said.

He acknowledged the Board for taking on board mana whenua's wishes.

Yesterday, the Board said it "encourages the use of original Māori names for places and features, especially when there is support from mana whenua."

Tepania is positive about the cultural journey Aotearoa New Zealand has been on, and seeing "the restoration of our traditional names is part of that," he told Newshub.

"It might not be on the sign but that place was and always has been Kororāreka."

In 1842 a fire burned down the colonial offices in nearby town Ōkiato - which was the original Russell.

The name Russell was then transferred to the Kororāreka area.

Tepania says in his [un]scientific Instagram poll, about 85 percent of the 400 respondents were in favour of Kororāreka.

"When we do public consultations on things as a Council, we'll be lucky to get more than 400 submissions."

He says it could be polarising, like restoring Hamilton's original name back to Kirikiriroa.

Former mayor Russ Rimmington suggested that in 2020.

"The backlash was crazy!" Tepania said.

In May 2022, the Far North District Council sent a letter to Kororāreka Marae and the Board.

In the letter, Council supported making place names official nationwide but made its concerns clear.

"Kororāreka/Russell is both home and whenua to a community and a tourism destination with a strong brand and many domestic and international business stakeholders."

They wanted to ensure proper consultation, appropriate time frames, and assessing any possible financial impacts that might result from a change.

At the time, the Council also said additional costs such as signage or refreshed marketing could be a burden on ratepayers and businesses in the Covid-19 economic climate.

Many of the place names around Aotearoa are not official, so the Board is aiming to officiate all significant place names by 2025.

There's still a possibility that the town could have a dual name too.

The public can have their say on the changes until February 18.

Submissions can be made online here or by email to nzgbsubmissions@linz.govt.nz