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‘Cursed’ by our name

A call to have the “cursed” name of Poverty Bay completely removed was made by district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown during a debate by Gisborne District Council yesterday. She asked that her opposition be recorded to a resolution carried by the council to consult on changing the name of Poverty Bay to a dual name.

The council altered the staff recommendation to apply to the NZ Geographic Board to change the name of the bay to Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay. Councillors opted to consult with the public first before approaching the board.

Mrs Akuhata-Brown said names had significance. Nelson had changed the name of Murderer’s Bay, she said. The word 'poverty' did not say anything positive or worthy at a time when the city was contemplating its tourism, economics and everything else.

“We still have this horrendous name that was cursed upon us in a moment when a meeting went very badly,” she said. “If anything, it should be called Misunderstanding Bay.”

The district had the highest poverty statistics in the country.

“I believe that names are significant and if you curse a place with a name like Poverty, that is what you get. I look at this place and we still have issues with poverty and deprivation. The name was imposed on us. There was no negotiation — it was just written in the books. I am for removing the name, even though it will always be in our history — it does not get forgotten.”

Kaiti School pupils had done research about names and came to the council to declare the name Turanganui a Kiwa had a lot more pride and meaningful status for them. This was a time to hear the voice of the youth of the region and she stood with them.

“I believe as a district council it is time to never hear the name again,” she said.

Mayor Meng Foon said the name Turanganui a Kiwa might not be chosen. It would be for iwi to decide. Graeme Thomson said Poverty Bay should be included in the name of the bay. He was quite happy to contemplate a dual name but, like it or not, “Poverty Bay” was part of history. Malcom Maclean said the name change was one of his favourite issues.

“Why we do it, I don’t know. If you are going to have a dual name it should be Poverty Bay first. We are hearing so much discussion around the table. None of us know what we really want.”

Shannon Dowsing said the council should be consulting on whether people wanted a dual name or single name and what those names should be.

Brian Wilson said the council should go with a dual name. It was great to see the original Maori name identified with an area. The original inhabitants should be recognised, especially in this area which was at the forefront of migration. He believed that over time people would get used to the Maori name, which would become the only one used as had happened with Mt Taranaki-Mount Egmont.

Amber Dunn said she wanted the original name of the bay restored. She had no doubt there was going to be a fabulous story in the original name. She would like to see this turned into a storytelling event and a history lesson for all. The original name was given by the star navigators.

Larry Foster said he was totally supportive of the concept. The name Poverty Bay had so many negative connotations. Rehette Stoltz said what made the district different was its true bicultural history. Bill Burdett said all the iwi should be consulted. Mayor Meng Foon said it was good the council was acknowledging the history of the district and the original inhabitants.

“Some diehards would say ‘I was born in Poverty Bay’ but the proposed dual name is right and respectful.”


File picture
Captain James Cook (1728-1779).
Gisborne from another angle