Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

The Wisdom of the Maori — Railway Station Maori Names

page 35

The Wisdom of the Maori
Railway Station Maori Names.


The series of articles explaining the origin and meaning of Maori names of railway stations throughout New Zealand is concluded in the list of names given below. The country from the Bay of Islands to the coast of Southland has been covered in this survey of place nomenclature, a subject about which questions are continually asked. This list ends with Awarua, the Maori name of the Bluff Harbour. A few names have been omitted because they were obviously corruptions of the Maori, and the original word is now difficult to ascertain.

In addition to these railway-stations names, a number of other South Island names of localities are explained on this page.

Stations on Southland Branch Lines. Otautau:

O = food for a journey; tautau = fastened in bunches.


Should be Waikoura, crayfish stream.


Apa = a party of workmen;

rima = five. The name, however, may be an importation from the Pacific Islands.


Wai = water, or stream; rio = dried up.


Tua = a sacred ceremony preliminary to a gathering of people; tapere = an assembly for song and amusements. The accent is on the “ta.”

Te Tua:

The back, the farther side, of an object.

Te Waewae:

The foot, or leg.


Wai = stream; hoaka (hoanga in the North) = a block of sandstone or other suitable stone on which greenstone weapons, etc., were ground, polished, or sharpened.


This is a pakeha corruption of Aropaki, the original name. One meaning is favourable appearance, as of the weather. It has also been applied to the ornamental border of a finely woven cloak.


Slapped; also a preparation of mashed food.


A wise woman.


Should be Whakapatu = to strike, or kill.


A corruption of Oraka, the original name, Raka's home.


A kind of basket woven of flax or cabbage-tree blades.


Where the sea dashes or strikes; also referring to certain sacred ceremonies in which food (O) was offered to the gods.


Stream of the bittern, or of the blue heron.


Water in which the rainbow is reflected.


Maka = fish-hook; rewa = floating.


Stream where the flightless bird the kiwi was seen.


Puke = hill; aruhe = fernroot.


Corruption of nuku-mai = move this way, towards the person speaking.


Two streams, or channels. This is the original name of Bluff Harbour; it has been given to a station about midway between Invercargill and the Bluff. It is a widespread name in Polynesia and New Zealand; Avarua, at Rarotonga Island, is identical with Awarua.

Other South Island Names.

The following are some of the names of places in the South Island selected for their general interest, or for the stories of their origin.


Eat crayfish, or meal of crayfish. In full the name is Te Ahi-kaikoura a Tama-ki-te-Rangi, meaning “The fire in which Tama-of-theSky cooked crayfish.” The local tradition is that Tama, who commanded the exploring canoe Tairea, from the Eastern Pacific, landed in the South Bay, at Kaikoura Peninsula and kindled his fire there, at the place where the whaling station stands. Kaikoura is celebrated for the size and abundance of its koura which the ancient Polynesians relished so much.


This is a particularly interesting name, one of many transplanted from the Pacific Islands. It is the name of a headland at Kaikoura and it is also the name of one of the islands in the Cook Group.


This Pacific Islands name is also the Maori name of Centre Island, Foveaux Strait.


This is the South Island variant of Whangaroa. The meaning of both names is Long Bay, or Long Harbour.


Sacred hill, or holy mount. This is the graceful conical hill near Palmerston station, it overlooks the Moeraki beach, the traditional scene of the canoe Arai-te-uru's capsize on arrival from Hawaiki. Puketapu, according to legend, was the slave wife of a chief named Pakihiwi-tahi, whose name is that of the hill inland of the Palmerston station, on which the cairn to Sir John McKenzie originally stood. The Maori gods transformed them into these mountains, say the old people of Moeraki village.


Originally Kani-ere, a reference to the act of sawing greenstone.