A street and park in central Hamilton have had their names officially changed to recognise the areas Māori heritage.
A ceremony was held this morning to mark the change from Von Tempsky Street to Puutikitiki Street and nearby Dawson Park to Te Wehenga Park.
Gustavus von Tempsky was a colonial commander responsible for several atrocities, while Captain Thomas Dawson was also involved in the New Zealand wars.
Many street names in Hamilton East are named after colonial figures – Beale Street, Dawson Street and Gray Street to name but a few.
Local pharmacist Ian McMichael applied for the name change. His pharmacy backs on to what is now Puutikitiki Street.
He wanted more recognition of the history of tangata whenua.
“Further down the track it won’t be so controversial as maybe this name change was.
“And some of the newer suburbs the names that they name streets are pretty lame some of them, rather than to actually take what the original Māori names were. So you take a name like Puutikitiki, it’s got a lovely story behind it and it’s a lovely sounding name,” he said.
McMichael, whose ancestor fought alongside Von Tempsky in his final battle, said people would not forget about him because of the change.
“You’ve effectively got kids walking to school along these streets who live in this area and there’s nothing which actually acknowledges tangata whenua.
“So they walk down Von Tempsky street or Beale street or Dawson street after firstly walking down Gray street, it will be great to actually start having Māori names.”
Hamilton community leader Lady Tureiti Moxon said it was a great occasion as Māori history was becoming a bigger part of the city’s fabric.
Hamilton was setting a good example for other city councils, she said.
“We’ve had to endure a lot of suffering and a lot of trauma and a lot of painful experiences over and over again, and [the street names] are a constant reminder of that.
“It’s a constant reminder of a colonial past that actually precipitated the theft of a million acres of land from this region.”
Moxon said the council had changed the names of landmarks before but this is the first time it’s recognised a Māori name.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said she was hopeful residents would be open minded about these changes.
“We’ve actually got to go ahead together on these issues, we’ve got to create opportunities to tell stories of tangata whenua but we need to bring the whole community on that journey.”
Southgate said the process of the name change began with a report by historian Vincent O’Malley, which identified three street names as being particularly egregious to Māori.
Von Tempsky Street was one, but there are two others that remained unchanged.
Southgate said to change those would require the same consultation process that led to today’s change.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz