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What’s in a name?

convention centre front door [1]

by Lindsay Shelton
Last week’s announcement of Tākina as the new name for the new Conference Centre has brought a lively discussion about its relevance.

It was also a reminder that renaming has become a habit in Wellington.

The Hurricanes are now referring to the Stadium as “our house.”

And the Transport Agency is calling itself Waka Kotahi.

(It must have been admiring the unofficial and unpopular rebranding of Victoria University, which now capitalises WELLINGTON as its key word, followed by another waka – Te Herenga Waka.)

The national museum of course has successfully persuaded everyone to think of it as Te Papa – and everyone knows that this means “our place.”

But few of us have been persuaded that the Regional Council should be referred to as “Greater Wellington,” which sounds like a place on a map rather than an organisation. And worse, a place that has grandiose ideas of its own importance.

There are similar problems with the rebranding of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency – a name which perfectly described the organisation and what it is supposed to do. It has renamed itself WellingtonNZ. The original name was perfect. The new name … well, if you’re going to WellingtonNZ are you going to the place, or the organisation?

The city council has offered three explanations of its new name for the convention centre.

At first it tweeted that the name meant “to envoke.”

It later corrected its spelling, and there was overkill from Cr Jill Day:

“Tākina is a really strong, memorable name, meaning ‘to invoke’. It is a name that has so many different levels to it and reflects both the building and our city as a place people come together to talk and think.” The Council had a desire for the building to have an identity and story anchored by the history of the site, its surroundings and its meaning to the city. This was an opportunity to bring to life those stories and connections with the cultural history of the city, and create an identity for the centre where visitors won’t just experience a world class venue, but will also be exposed to a unique Wellington experience – Tākina encapsulates all of those elements.

So much to be explained to convention-goers, if any can be found.

The council’s naming announcement [2] included a further explanation, from Kura Moeahu, Chair, Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa ki te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, who didn’t however refer directly to the new name:

“Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington harbour) is renowned for its unique and diverse winds – from those that rage across the harbour to the softer and more welcoming winds. Wellington is known as the windiest city in the world. We should acknowledge it for what it is. We have no power or control over Tāwhirimātea and how he chooses to behave. We can’t control our environment, but we can learn to certainly respect and appreciate it.”

All of which is a reminder that naming and renaming should have the aim of clarity and recognition. Te Papa achieved this. Some of the other attempts have fallen short of their goal.