Wellington City Council corrects Epuni Street to Hōniana Te Puni Street

Aro Valley's Epuni St has been renamed to Hōniana Te Puni Street. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

This article was first published by RNZ.

Epuni Street in the Wellington suburb of Aro Valley has been corrected to Hōniana Te Puni Street.

A new street sign was unveiled by Wellington City Council, Wellington Central MP Tamatha Paul, and direct descendants of chief Hōniana Te Puni on Thursday morning.

In 2020, Waripori Street was corrected to Te Wharepōuri Street in the suburb of Berhampore to honour chief Te Wharepōuri.

Mayor Tory Whanau said the new street name correctly recognises Hōniana Te Puni.

“He has had quite a significant impact on the culture of Wellington,” she said.

“And while this may seem like just a small ceremony to some people in Wellington, what I felt from this was a restoring of mana, righting some wrongs, giving a strong tautoko to local iwi, and acknowledging history.”

She was looking forward to being able to unveil other parts of the city which could do the same.

Hōniana Te Puni was a rangatira - chief - of the Ngāti Tāwhirikura and Ngāti Te Whiti hapū of Te Āti Awa.

He was one of the leaders of the hekenga - migration - from Taranaki to the greater Wellington region.

In 1839, he and Te Wharepōuri, signed an agreement to sell land in the present-day Wellington City to the New Zealand Company, with a tenth of the land to be set apart for Māori.

Wellington Central MP Tamatha Paul said she hoped this would be a catalyst for the Wellington City Council to correct other names.

“I have got a big list of names - suburb names, street names, place names, building names - that really need to be corrected so that we can understand our past and move into our future,” she said.

Aro Valley's Epuni Street has been renamed to Hōniana Te Puni Street on 23 May, 2024. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

But one resident of the now Hōniana Te Puni Street - who did not wish to be named - said he felt the council had far more important issues to resolve.

Another said it would be difficult to adjust to the new name.

“It is not an easy one,” he said.

However, St Vincent de Paul Aro Valley manager Heather Patterson said residents would get used to it and learn how to say the name properly.

“At the end of the day, it is just a slight name change,” she said.

Morris Love, a direct descendant of Hōniana Te Puni, said the chief was one of the founders of Wellington, and was not well recognised in the colloquial use of ‘Epuni’, which some would see as degrading.

“The change will help people understand an important part of Wellington’s history by naming him correctly,” he said.

“There are surprisingly few ancestral names used in Wellington City, which is dominated by New Zealand Company names and other colonial names.

“There are other tupuna who could be regarded as founders of Wellington City from a Māori perspective such as Ngātata-i-te-rangi, Hemi Parae, and many others including women.

“Street naming is one way to give another form of recognition of their place in history.”

The correction is aligned with the council’s policies, Te Māpihi Maurea and Te Tauihu.

Te Māpihi Maurea provides guidelines and principles to be considered when deciding the name of roads, open spaces, and council facilities.

It includes a criteria for using te reo Māori where a location is important to mana whenua and using names which tell stories about the history of the place.

Te Tauihu recognises the status of te reo Māori as a taonga and supports the revitalisation of the language.

By Pretoria Gordon of RNZ.