Submissions quadruple on iwi bid to rename National Park village

Posted 10 January 2024 by Moana Ellis
National Park - which iwi want to be named Waimarino again - is located near Mt Ruapehu in the central North Island.

National Park – which iwi want to be named Waimarino again – is located near Mt Ruapehu in the central North Island. Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Submissions have more than quadrupled on an iwi proposal to change the name of National Park village and railway station in the central North Island.

The iwi Uenuku and the central North Island iwi collective Te Korowai o Wainuiārua have called for the tourist village and its railway station to revert to the historic name Waimarino.

Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa New Zealand Geographic Board supported the name change proposal and opened a three-month public consultation period on 7 November.

Geographic Board secretary Wendy Shaw said just over 180 submissions were received in the first month of consultation. During the second month, the total jumped to 774.

“To date the board has received 694 submissions on the proposal to change the name of National Park village to Waimarino and 80 submissions on the proposal to rename National Park Station to Waimarino Railway Station,” Shaw said.

Shaw declined to give an interim count of the number of submissions for and against.

“We can provide a breakdown of the submissions for and against once final decisions have been made by the board or the minister for Land Information.

“Our practice is to not provide this before then to allow the process to run its course without any undue influence.”

Public consultation and participation was valued in the process for making place names official to gauge any opposition or support, particularly from the local community, Shaw said.

“Final decisions are not based on the numbers for or against, but rather the reasons for changing and the board’s role in upholding relevant statutory functions and aligning with good place naming practice.”

The population of the village as of June last year was 230, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Uenuku said it was not known when the name of the Waimarino settlement was changed to National Park.

Iwi researchers told the Owhango-National Park Community Board and Ruapehu District Council last year that the National Park name was “not official” and according to the NZ Gazetteer was “recorded” rather than approved.

The iwi said the area was originally the site of Waimarino Pā, and Waimarino was the name of the village and railway station until 1926 when the station was renamed National Park Station by NZ Railways following a request from Waimarino County Council.

The council was still referring to “Waimarino Village” in 1968, and a LINZ map named the village as Waimarino in 1973.

Community Board member Murray Wilson last year said there were divergent views among locals about the proposal and some were “really unsure”.

“People that have invested heavily in their businesses and their livelihood are concerned that the branding of National Park Village could be lost.”

In August, local business owner Tracey Kereopa told the Community Board she grew up calling the place Waimarino until she went to school and was told it was National Park.

She acknowledged that reverting to the original name could affect members of the National Park Business Association but she did not believe the change would divide the community.

The Community Board supported the name change and public consultation “in principle” and Ruapehu District Council voted unanimously to revoke a 1957 decision by the Waimarino County Council not to revert to using the name Waimarino Railway Station.

Uenuku said letters of support for the name Waimarino had been received from Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, Tongariro Taupō Conservation Board and Visit Ruapehu, and KiwiRail had already erected new signs at the station that read “Waimarino National Park”.

Consultation on the proposals closes on 8 February.

If only supporting submissions are received, a final decision will be made by the Geographic Board chairperson.

If objections are received, the board will consider whether to uphold or reject them at its first meeting this year.

If the board rejects the objections, the minister for Land Information will make the final determinations.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.