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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)


A vast deal might be written on the subject of Maori place names and their meanings. You have the short and the long of it with a vengeance in native nomenclature. There are some names which consist only of two or three vowels—no consonants need apply—and there are others which would take a line of this type and carry on to the next line. Up the East Coast the other day, according to a news par., the winner in an impromptu contest for the longest Maori name was a farmer who submitted as his contribution a hill in the East Cape district called Pipiwhenuatauwhareparae.

This, of course, beats present writer's old love Te-Wharikirauponga (“The Couch of Fern Tree Fronds”). But it must give way to Te-Taumata-whakatangitangikoauau-a-Tamateapokaiwhenua (“The hill on which there was played the nose-flute of Tamatea, etc.”). That sweet thing in place designation is borne by the long-suffering hill in the Hawke's Bay back country.

On the motor road from Rotorua to famous Wairoa, the eruption-ruined village above Lake Tarawera, you drive over the north end of the narrow neck of land which separates Lakes Tikitapu and Rotokakahi, popularly known as the Blue and Green Lakes. This hilly neck is known to the old Maoris as Te Taumata-o-te-ahi-tapoai-tunua-ai-te-manawa-o-Taiapua. Old timer flautist Tamatea's hill-top wins by five letters, if my reckoning up is correct. (I get a different answer every time I struggle with a column of figures and things.) Naturally there is a story in that name, quite a dainty story, too. It tells one (as an old man of the Tuhourongi tribe explained to me) that on this spot there was a wizard's sacred fire, in which the heart of a man named Taiapua was cooked, to be eaten by his slayer. How interesting the tourist car-drivers could make that route to their passengers if they recited the names of the places they pass!—especially if they pulled up on Cannibal Hill for refreshments.

But those names and tales are a closed book to them.