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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)


A Christchurch correspondent has asked me to give the Maori name of the Avon stream that meanders through his city. Otakaro is the original name of the Avon, according to the old Maoris of Tuahiwi, with whom I discussed the Canterbury place nomenclature, on my visits to them from 1903 onward.

O is the place of, and takaro means games, play, sports, such as wrestling and running. It is particularly appropriate to-day, as it happens, since the Avon girdles Hagley Park. Takaro in its present form, with the prefix o is a personal name, that of some ancestor who lived in these parts. The accent is placed on the “tā.” Another Tupuna is commemorated in—

Otautahi, the name of the old ford of the Avon, where the stream flows past the Supreme Court, close to the Victoria Bridge. Tautahi was the son of Huikai, one of the warrior chiefs of the Ngai-tahu tribe about 200 years ago. Otakaro is applied to the whole course of the Avon from the mouth up to where it branches. The tributary is the Wairarapa (“glistening water”) and the sub-tributaries the Wai-maero (“deep water channel,” also “hard water”), and the Wai-utuutu (“water dipped up”).

Onepoto (“short sandy beach”) is the sand below Redcliffs, at the mouth.

Putaringa-mutu, a name which my correspondent thought might be that of the Avon at Riccarton, is the Riccarton bush, the last relic of the olden forest. It means, literally, ear-lobe cut off, or broken off by a heavy pendant. It is a figurative expression for an isolated piece of forest, a fragment of the ancient vast woods.