NZ Geographic Board wants feedback on proposal to change name of Russell to Kororāreka

  • 18/01/2023
Looking over the harbour at a Russell/Kororāreka sunset.
Looking over the harbour at a Russell/Kororāreka sunset. Photo credit: Flickr/brewbooks.

Kiwis can now have their say on the name of Aotearoa New Zealand's first capital now that public consultation has opened.

The New Zealand Geographic Board/Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa is proposing to change some place names around the motu, including restoring the original Māori name for Russell (Kororāreka).

The name-change proposal "has local support from Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi and the Far North District Council," the Board said.

Russell is a small town in Bay of Islands/Pēwhairangi and was one of the first places where Pākehā settled in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

A brief history

It was widely known as Kororāreka until the 1840s, when it was renamed after a man who never visited Aotearoa - the leader of the British House of Commons, Lord John Russell.

The town is still known as Kororāreka by many in the community.

Kororāreka derives from the story of a sick rangatira (chief) who was brought back to health with a reka (sweet or delicious) soup made from kororā (little blue penguin).

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

But they still want to hear the public's views, "whether supporting or objecting, to ensure all viewpoints are considered" before a final decision.

Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi supports the change back to Kororāreka, alongside the Far North District Council.

Three place names in the area - Kororāreka Point, Kororāreka Scenic Reserve, and Kororāreka Bay - are set to receive tohutō (macrons) too.

Other proposed changes

Among other name changes, the Board is proposing to change the Whangārei suburb Kamo to Te Kamo.

Local hapū said Te Kamo was a resident rangatira (leader/chief) and tupuna (ancestor) who worked tirelessly to ensure his village and people lived comfortably.

'Te' is an important part of many Māori names, including many important tūpuna including Te Rauparaha, Te Puni, and Te Kooti.

"[We] follow the orthographic conventions of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission," said the Board.

Other proposals include changing Clive River to Te Awa o Mokotūāraro, and tohutō (macrons) were added to a few names where they had been omitted in the past, including the Whakatīkei River, Kaumātua Ridge, and Whāingaroa Harbour.

Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa/New Zealand Geographic Board uses naming standards and international best practice to guide its decisions.

"Anyone may propose a name for a geographic feature or place."

The public can submit from today until February 18 and the Board will discuss the feedback at their mid-year hui.

Submissions can be made online here or by email to