Remutaka spelling change has steep hill to climb

A Waitangi Tribunal proposal to change the spelling of the Rimutaka area to the historical Maori version has met immediate resistance.

A new tribunal report for the Wairarapa and Tararua region says the Rimutaka Hill Rd and region should be Remutaka and the change would be recommended to the Geographical Board.

The main finding of the report, formally delivered last weekend, was that the Crown bought too much Maori land too quickly and without regard to the inevitable plight of a Maori population left virtually landless in a part of the country where agricultural enterprise was the principal route to a good livelihood.

It said the Crown did not act in good faith, did not follow proper land purchase procedures, failed to provide adequate reserves, failed to protect Maori interests and failed to provide adequate education and health services as required.

The name change proposal has come as a surprise to many.

Featherston local and former South Wairarapa District councillor John Tenquist, 76, said the name change was ludicrous.

"What is wrong with the way it is? Once again we are pandering to a minority. We have some European heritage in this country and, rightly or wrongly, it has been Rimutaka for over 150 years, so if it ain't broken, don't fix it.

"The locals on either side of the hill will never change the name from what they have always known."

The Rimutaka renaming debate comes hard on the heels of controversy over the change from Wanganui to Whanganui.

Mayor Michael Laws, who still refuses to acknowledge the naming of his city with the inclusion of an "h", said the new debate was merely another step to renaming every New Zealand town and city. "Where does the political correctness end?"

Maori, however, argue that the name given by their ancestors should be accepted.

The story behind the area's name is that a Maori chief, Haunuiananaia, an ancestor of the Te Ati Hau a Paparangi people of the Whanganui region, left his home in southern Taranaki to pursue his errant wife Wairaka, who had run off with a slave.

During his journey, he sat down to rest on a mountain and think about his quest. He named the mountain Remutaka – which means to sit down.

While many locals say the name Rimutaka will never change and question who will pay for the new signage, others say that local history needs to be embraced. Carterton Mayor Gary McPhee said a name change would not cost much money. "Why not do it?

"Changing a name is not a big deal as long as everybody gets on with it and we are not hurting the rest of the community."

Rimutaka Incline Railway Heritage Trust Board chairman Hugh McCracken said his organisation would welcome a debate on the name change.

The Dominion Post