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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)

The Wisdom of the Maori — Railway Station Maori Names

page 24

The Wisdom of the Maori
Railway Station Maori Names.


This series of explanations of Maori names of railway stations throughout New Zealand has elicited correspondence and inquiries from people in both Islands. It has been suggested that the scope of the discussion should be extended to include other places in the Dominion. That obviously would be rather too heavy an undertaking, for space is limited. However, in previous numbers of the Magazine, over a period of several years, a great many names have been discussed, and the beauty, euphony and poetic content of the country's place nomenclature have often made a text for “Tohunga.”

Here the meanings and origins of the North Island station names are continued, and will be concluded in next month's Magazine. In succeeding issues South Island names will be explained.

The Taranaki-Wellington Line.

Here we take the Taranaki line from the Main Trunk junction at Okahukura to Stratford and New Plymouth, and thence to Wanganui and Wellington.


The place of the rainbow; the home of Kahukura. Kahu=garment; kura=red. Kahukura the rainbow is the visible symbol of a deity of the Maoris; synonymous with Uenuku in Waikato.


In full, mata-tuhua is the expression for obsidian. Tuhua (Mayor Island, Bay of Plenty) was so named because obsidian, or volcanic glass, is a great feature of its geological structure. The word tūhua was originally imported from Polynesia like so many other Maori place names. Tūhua is a high volcanic mountain on the east side of the Main Trunk, between the upper Wanganui River and Lake Taupo.


Young shoots, or buds, of a plant. Also a tooth-shaped pattern in weaving mats, and borders to cloaks.


The home or place of Hura. Hura=to uncover.


Cutting or felling timber; fallen trees; referring to the great quantity of trees carried down the river by floods.


In full, Tahora-paroa. An expanse of open country, spread out. There was an ancient scrub-grown clearing here in the great North Taranaki forest, when “Tohunga” camped in it in 1892, and there was a long-deserted entrenchment, an earthwork pa of some vanished tribe which had taken refuge there in the heart of the bush.


Whanga = valley, momona = fat. This great saucer of land among the rugged hills was filled with tall forest in 1892 and the richness of the soil and the great abundance of birds justified the Maori name.


The name of an ancestor, a chief of the ancient inhabitants. Poho= chest, kura=red.


The name of a native tribe of these parts, whose descendants live on the Upper Waitara.

To Wera:

The heat, or the burning. Name of an ancestor.




A fine species of flax.


A staff, or prop.


Correctly Wai-o-Ngana=Ngana's stream. Ngana=persistent, obstinate, courageous, striving.


A swamp. There was a very large extent of marshy country, with lagoons, where Ngaere and Eltham settlements and farms are to-day; a great resort for Maoris snaring duck and other wildfowl.


Literally the breath of fire or heat. A clearing made by burning the bush or fern. There is a tradition also of the burning of a crowded meeting-house here by a war-party; the inmates either perished by the “breath of fire” or were killed as they tried to escape.


Long building.




One bird.


Coloured earth.


Long cliff, or tall cliff (on the Patea River).


Various meanings; one signifies clear country, clear travelling ahead; another a kind of flax mat. Local Maoris state that it was so named because of the abundance of the small tree patete, or patea, commonly called the “five-finger” (Schefflera digitata) along the banks.


Literally red sky. But the original name of the place is Whenua-kura, meaning red earth.


River where the totara tree was plentiful.


Eat the tribes, the people; a memory of cannibal days.


Ara=track or trail in the bush; moho=a ground-bird now very rare; the rail, Notornis hochslet-teri. It has long been extinct in the North Island.


Correct spelling Whangaehu. Whanga-bay, or mouth of a river; ehu=turbid. The water of the Whangaehu sometimes has a discoloured appearance, caused by its sulphurous origin on Mt. Rua-pehu.


Felled, thrown down, referring to trees on the bank of this river. The legend of Hau, describing the naming of these West Coast rivers, says that Hau so named this stream because a tree was felled there when he came to cross it.

The Gisborne Section.


Ma=short for manga, branch of a river, creek; karaka, the tree growing abundantly on the banks.


Wai=water; hirere=gushing, or spurting out.


Literally, as it stands, smoky river, but correctly it is Wai-o-Paoa, Paoa's River. Heroic legend attributes the origin of the river to the ancestor Paoa.


A war-song; also to blow, spout; a wild vegetable (sow-thistle), also called rauriki.