Te Ngawai unlikely to be back on map

Last updated 00:30 22/08/2008
Timaru Herald
WRONGLY RECORDED: The New Zealand Geographic Board is unlikely to put the former district of Te Ngawai back on the map. Pictured beside the war memorial is Albury historian Jeremy Sutherland.

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A BID to have Te Ngawai, the location, back on official maps has hit a big obstacle - a 140-year-old translation mistake.

Te Ngawai (which in Maori would mean "the the water") is really Te Ana a Wai, the water cavern.

The Tengawai river was incorrectly recorded in the 1860s by a surveyor and it has never been corrected.

The Te Ngawai community was established in 1897, but dispersed after the Second World War. In 1963 Te Ngawai was replaced on the map by Camp Valley and Limestone Valley.

Two years ago north-west Albury residents, encouraged by local historian Jeremy Sutherland, applied to the New Zealand Geographic Board to have the Te Ngawai district return to official maps. However, the Arowhenua Runaka is reluctant to perpetuate a translation mistake and grammatical inaccuracy.

Representative Mandy Waaka-Home said place names should be correct. She said why perpetuate a mistake simply because it was more than 100 years old?

Mrs Waaka-Home said Te Ngawai the place and the Tengawai River should both be named correctly - Te Ana a Wai.

The Runaka wanted other place names such as Tekapo - Takapo, Ohau - Ohou, Omarama - Te Ao Marama (the coming of light) to be corrected.

Mr Sutherland said the Runaka's argument was correct, but raised the issue of common usage versus actual name. Many of South Canterbury's Maori place names were incorrect.

Mr Sutherland said 111 years ago a community called Te Ngawai was formed and it had a school even a district rugby team. Putting Te Ngawai back on map was recognition of that community. He felt the war memorial was a sensitive issue.

"During two world wars young men and women left Te Ngawai not knowing whether they would ever return to a place named by their fathers (in good faith) after the nearby river. Most of them were educated at the Te Ngawai School, and at a time when few rural folk travelled any further than biking distance this Te Ngawai was home."

Mrs Waaka-Home was reluctant to see the mistake and grammatical error perpetuated.

The name Te Ana a Wai had a meaning. The river passed caves in the gorge through the Albury Ranges.

The area and river could both be known as Te Ana a Wai.

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- South Canterbury

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