The New Zealand Geographic Board has allowed for a review to revert the name of National Park back to Waimarino, which was changed after a shipment of mail went missing 100 years ago.
The request, made by local iwi Uenuku and heard earlier this week, is the latest in a string of bids heard by the Geographic Board since the change was made.
Notably, the Ruapehu District Council reversed a decision its predecessor made 70 odd years ago opposing a name change, and KiwiRail has even forged ahead and installed dual-name signage at its station.
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The potential change comes as the Land Information Minister is tasked with deciding to revert the name of Russell to its traditional name Kororāreka, in what is considered to be an important test case for populated places.
The name Waimarino refers to the calm waters pooling on the plains as they come down from Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe.
Waimarino Station opened in 1908 on the North Island Main Trunk and the “Town of Waimarino” was surveyed for the village around the station in 1910, with sections opening for sale early that year.
According to a timeline in Uenuku’s proposal, a missing shipment of mail to Raetihi in 1924, then the seat of the Waimarino County Council, led to the name change.
In 1925, The Raetihi Chamber of Commerce suggested Waimarino County Council petition the Crown to change the name of the Waimarino railway station to help stop the mail of Raetihi from going missing.
Councillors agreed that there was confusion over the name and suggested that an application be made.
In April 1926, Railways Minister Joseph Gordon Coates agreed to change the name of the station to National Park Station and the name of the village followed over time, though was never officiated.
There was opposition to the name change for the station, including from non-Māori, at the time.
In a 1926 letter to Coates, Mr J Lemain of the Auckland Institute and Museum’s Anthropology and Maori [sic] Race department protested against the Railway Department’s bid to rename the station to National Park.
“The name Waimarino is of historic value and significance, and it is due to the native people of the district who presented this area as a National Park, that their nomenclature should be preserved for future time,” Lemain said.
“These Maori [sic] place-names in time to come will serve as a valuable memory of the native race, and on that ground alone should not be displaced without good and necessary cause. This is not shown to be the case in the instance of Waimarino, and we hope you will give your official dissent to the intended change.”
In agreeing to publicly consult on a proposal to change the name, Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa – New Zealand Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw said there was clear evidence the name Waimarino had continued to be used for the village over the past 100 years.
Shaw said earlier proposals had been made to the board in the 1950s and 1960s to alter the name back to Waimarino.
The applications, made by the Federated Mountain Clubs and National Parks Authority were declined because of the established use of National Park as the name, potential confusion for the postal service, and public opposition.
Despite this, Department of Lands and Survey maps from the 1970s, referenced in Uenuku’s application to the board, referred to the area as “Waimarino (National Park)”.
Uenuku’s proposal was supported by Ruapehu District Council, Ōwhango-National Park Community Board, and other interested parties including the Federated Mountain Clubs, Visit Ruapehu.
Uenuku chair Aiden Gilbert said he was “absolutely stoked” with the initial result. “It’s all part and parcel of us starting to stand up on our landscape.”
He said off the back of its Treaty settlement earlier in the year, there were other places in the region where Uenuku was keen to do some more “housekeeping” and reinstate traditional or more accurate names.
Ironically, considering the reasoning behind the 1926 name change, a resident submitting in favour said the name National Park often caused confusion with mail delivery and address searches.
The National Park Village Business Association didn’t oppose a change, but expressed concern, saying the National Park Village name had a strong international brand and local businesses had invested accordingly.
Other residents were more strongly opposed, with one resident, who didn’t want to be named, telling Newsroom the name change was driven by people who didn’t actually live in the township and without adequate consultation.
The New Zealand Geographic Board will publicly consult on the proposal for three months from early November.