Pōkeno set to remain as Pookeno despite community opposition

Waikato District mayor Jacqui Church (right) wishes to respect mana whenua by following the use of double vowels for Pōkeno. Photo / NZME

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Waikato District Council is under fire from a group of Pōkeno residents after changing the spelling to Pookeno without allegedly consulting them.

Plans to continue keeping calling Pookeno with its proper Māori spelling was revealed to the small rural community at a public meeting earlier this week.

The macron was added to Pokeno in 2019 after Waikato-Tainui called for it to be accurate.

Mayor Jacqui Church said the council would continue to use Pookeno after discussions on Tuesday in response to feedback from residents.

“There is a policy about using the double vowels to represent and respect Waikato-Tainui and that relationship and how they spell place names.

“We also will be having discussions now actively and what we can do, how we can manage and support the community going forward.”

Church said their Te reo Māori strategy policy ensured the use of double vowels across the district.

The name would still sound the same but spelt differently, she said.

The New Zealand Geographic board had put a macron on Pōkeno in 2019 and the move to add the double vowel was to respect the customs of Mana Whenua.

“That’s just facts which are really important for people to understand that council didn’t all of a sudden wake up one day and decide to change the name of Pōkeno.

“Pronunciation for mana whenua is important, it’s the oral language. Pookeno is still Pōkeno, the spelling is another part of it.”

The chair of the Pōkeno community committee, Allen Grainger, who attended the meeting on Monday night said residents were opposed to the use of the double vowels.

“A lot of people wanted it taken off tomorrow. But, like she said, they can’t just do that.”

Grainger said they should have consulted with residents and ratepayers before they started using Pookeno on official documents.

“Half the literature that came out on the day from the district council had Pookeno and when we went to the Waikato District Council website, that’s how they’ve written Pōkeno. So, you can imagine the reaction from people with their town being called poo.”

Councillor Kandi Ngātaki said the meeting gave locals the opportunity to voice their frustration at the lack of consultation around the spelling of Pōkeno being changed.

“It’s not our intention to upset people. We’re always talking about going on the journey, but it was evident that some of the community that attended also were upset.”

Ngātaki said they have taken their feedback into consideration and were hopeful the council, mana whenua and local residents could come to an agreement.

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