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New sign highlights te reo Māori name of waterfront lagoon


From left, Port Nicholson Block Deputy Chairman Peter Jackson, Wellington Deputy Mayor Jill Day and Tenths Trust Chairman Morrie Love, with the new sign at Whairepo Lagoon. Photo: Wellington City Council

News from Wellington City Council
Confusion about the name of Wellington’s waterfront lagoon will be no more, with Whairepo Lagoon now etched into the landscape.

The man-made landmark by Frank Kitts Park was officially named Whairepo Lagoon in 2015, but the name is not widely known.

Deputy Mayor Jill Day is excited to see the name permanently recognised. “Our new te reo Māori policy, Te Tauihu, is not just about new ideas, events and names, but about acknowledging the past and the existing Māori contributions in our city.

“The Whairepo (eagle rays) that inhabit the lagoon are considered guardians of the area, but many don’t know about the Māori name of the lagoon or the creatures that live in or visit the water in our warmer months.”

The new sign was installed using existing features to ensure the character of the area was retained. The name has been etched into wooden planks in the garden near The Boatshed and is easily seen from the north side of the lagoon.

“Our waterfront is unique in that it doesn’t have much overt signage. We wanted to respect that, but also find a way to help people know the special name of our lagoon,” the Deputy Mayor says.

“Because the words haven’t been painted or stained, they will fade back over time as the knowledge of the name grows.”

The name Whairepo was submitted to the New Zealand Geographic Board by mana whenua Taranaki Whānui, after being given by kaumātua Sam Jackson. His son, Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust Deputy Chairman Peter Jackson, says his father would have been proud to see the work that has been done to acknowledge the name.

“Dad would have been very pleased,” Mr Jackson said. “The name highlights the silent inhabitants of the lagoon and is a reminder of our collective responsibility to the environment.”

Wellington Tenths Trust Chairman Morrie Love said the name was poetically appropriate for the area.

“Sam had a passion for the sea and this lagoon. He knew the eagle rays visited the lagoon and started the kōrero about capturing their presence in the name.”

Whairepo Lagoon
• The lagoon was officially named by the New Zealand Geographic Board in December 2015.
• Whairepo refers to the Australasian eagle rays that swim in the lagoon in the warmer months.
• The word Whairepo are said to derive from whai – ray and repo – mudflat.
• The whairepo can be seen from the City to Sea Bridge as silhouettes as they swim through the water and careful viewers can spot them sunning themselves near the rocks.

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