Indigenous | Kororāreka

Give Kororāreka name a go, marae chair tells reluctant Russell residents

Kororāreka Marae chair Deb Rewiri (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Awa, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), who advocates changing the name of Russell back to Korokāreka, says she uses the term ‘restoration’, which is a reflection of what the ancestors called it long before settlers arrived.

The New Zealand Geographic Board has put up the issue for public discussion.

A government minister may also weigh in and have the final say but the Kororāreka Marae Society which came up with the proposal, says it's all about restoring a Māori name and its associated history.

Deb Rewiri says many hui have been held, with more to come, and the participation has been 70% Pākehā, with 30% Māori.

Deb Rewiri is adamant with restoring the original name of Kororāreka.

“Some of the concerns people said [included] the courage it took for them to come in here, to meet with us at a marae because I had put the application in and then facilitated the hui. That’s because the protocols at a marae are different from going to a town hall.

“For me, it was to consult widely with them and to set or drive the narrative from our perspective.”

While Kororāreka’s name stems from the story of an unwell chief nursed back to health with soup made from the Kororā penguin, Rewiri wants people to know about its history that helped shape the beginnings of the partnership between Māori and Pākehā.

“What people need to understand is how historical this village was in terms of building those bicultural relationships right from the beginning.”

A dual name has been put forward as a suggestion but it’s not something Rewiri agrees with.

‘I talk about care-fronting rather than confronting people, and I said ‘let’s have some robust conversation.’ But I said, ‘I’m not being unbiased – I’m telling you what we’re driving towards.”

And while she says people in the hui have said they can’t pronounce Kororāreka, she’s adamant on helping them, no matter what.

“I think in 2023 we’re over this ‘It’s too hard to say.’ Give it up, people, and give it a go.”

Public Interest Journalism