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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 (December 2, 1935)

The Wisdom of the Maori — Railway Station Maori Names. — Along the Main Trunk Line

page 51

The Wisdom of the Maori
Railway Station Maori Names.
Along the Main Trunk Line.

The names of railway stations on the Auckland-Wellington line are mostly Maori, and they include many with historical origins and associations. Some are poetical, and legends and ancient beliefs are crystallized in them. The explanations given here are necessarily brief; authentic stories of the past can be written around many of them. The journey southward is taken up here at Frankton Junction.


Originally a great swamp and series of lagoons. Ruku to dive; rukuhia, act of diving; to submerge; also, in one sense, ceremonial ablutions.


The place or home of Haupo. Literally, haupo is “winds of the night.”


The lakes. There were several shallow lakes in the swampy country here, mostly drained now.

Te Awamutu:

The river-end, referring to the head of canoe navigation here, on the Manga-o-Hoi stream. Although the source of the river is many miles beyond Te Awamutu, it was blocked by snags against continuous canoe transit.

Te Mäwhai:

A parasitic plant; also wavy, curly.

Te Kawa:

Several meanings, including the following: The shrub Piper excelsum; a channel or depression; ceremonies in connection with the removal of tapu from a new carved house.


The fern Lomaria capensis, often seen growing on roadsides and drooping over banks in cuttings. Also a name for the waning moon.


O food for a journey; torohanga stretched out, or caused to extend over a distance; toro also to scout, reconnoitre. The local Ngati-Maniapoto tradition is that a chief who travelled from here to Lake Taupo carried only a small quantity of food (O) which he caused by magical means and incantations and his powerful mana to last him for the long journey.


Hanga to make; tiki, an image fashioned in human form; in this case a carved wooden post.

Te Kumi:

A fabulous creature, a monster in reptile form said to live in the forest.

Te Kuiti:

A contraction of the original name, Te Kuititanga, meaning “The Narrowing in.” A name coined in the Sixties, after the Waikato War, referring to the confiscation of Waikato lands and the narrowing in of the Maori territory, necessitating the dispossessed Waikato tribes taking refuge in the country of the Ngati-Maniapoto. Te Kuiti was the headquarters of the Maori King Tawhiao for some years after the war. The original name of the place was Tokangamutu; the large village here stood on the flat about half-a-mile to the south of the present railway station. Tokanga a large basket for food; mutu, ended or concluded.


Hill of the tutu or tupakihi shrub.


A wrapping or envelope; flax woven mats laid in a grave as a “wrapping” for the dead, a token of respect often observed at burials. Also corn in the sheath or husk; unhusked maize is called kaanga kopaki.


The range penetrated by the railway tunnel here was named after an incident of three centuries ago. The chief Tarao, with a party of his people, was retreating southward to the Taumarunui district after escaping from his besieged pa on Kawa hill (above the present Te Kawa railway station). The chief was slowly climbing the steep range ahead of his comrades, and his rapaki (waist-garment) was kilted high until, like Gunga Din, “the uniform ‘e wore was nothin’ much before, an’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be'ind.” The sight of the well-bared chief amused his followers, and from that little incident of the climb the range came to be named “Te Poro-o-Tarao,” meaning “The Posterior of Tarao.”


Originally Waimeha; literal meaning insipid, distasteful, but probably an ancestral personal name. The original Waimeha was a small Maori village some miles higher up the Ongarue Valley; the name was transferred to the railway station site.


The place of shaking or shivering, as in an earthquake.

Te Koura:

The fresh-water crayfish.


The home of Kahukura. Kahu Aarment; kura red. Kahukura is a symbolical term for the rainbow and the deity whose visible form it is.


Toringa ear; mutu, cut off, or mutilated.


The place of abundant shade. A tradition states that a chief who lay dying here out-of-doors asked that a screen or shelter should be set up to shade him from the hot sun; hence the name. Taumaru shaded, overshadowing; nui great, large.


Great bird.


The twining forest vines. Piri to cling close; aka bush climbers of various kinds, including rata.


Fresh-water shellfish.


Probably a contraction of ioio sinewy, muscular; or puioio tough, knotty, applied to a tree.


Rau leaf; riuu red pine. The name is probably a modern one, a transposed form of “Many Red-Pine Trees” (rau in this sense means a hundred, or many).


Rua or e rua two.


Wandering about; lingering. Also often as kerioi; in Maori pronunciation.


A small tree which grows on these highlands; scientific name Glaeocarpus Hookerianus. It is related to the hinou tree.


A handsome shrub, Alseuosmia macrophylla, which is plentiful in these parts. It has large glossy leaves and fragrant dark red flowers. The botanical name means “scent of the woods.”


Origin uncertain, but apparently based on a personal name. Hakune be deliberate, be careful.