Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who was Rodney?

The NZ Herald today, in their editorial, asked a very good question: "Who was Rodney?" You see, Auckland Region is on the possible verge of a shakeup, both in terms of governance and also even down to the names of the parts of the region with which we identify. A Royal Commission has, among its other recommendations, come out in favour of the transfer of European place names to Maori names for the new "local councils" under the Auckland Council super-city. Tamaki-Makau-rau for Auckland isthmus, Hunua for Franklin ...

"Many will wonder why Maori placenames have acquired such importance lately, and why they need to be so correct. Tamaki-makau-rau would be a mouthful for most residents, who should be forgiven if they shorten it to Tamaki. And Waitemata seems an inadequate name for area that extends far north of the harbour, as far as the Hibiscus Coast on the commission's plan.

But there is value in recognising Maori names of localities. They are a mark of respect for the pre-colonial heritage and a symbol of social inclusion, as well as having more local meaning in most cases. Who was Rodney?"

Rodney, up in the northern part of the region, is the exception. The Royal Commission copped out, really -- they couldn't come up with a Maori name, so just said Rodney would have to sort it out for themselves. I say copped out, because if the commission can just slap Hunua on Franklin, they had a wide range of Maori names of former wards within the old Rodney County Council area to have chosen from as well.

But -- who was Rodney?

Near as I can make out, the county from 1876 was so-named from the district, which came from an electorate in the 1870s. This in turn was probably inspired from Cape or Point Rodney, still a maritime landmark today. That name goes back to beyond 1840, and so we look to Captain Cook, landmark-namer extraordinaire. He named part of Alaska Cape Rodney as well, apparently, and both Capes Rodney were in honour, so it seems, for one man: George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, and an admiral (pictured above. Image from Wiki.) He was a war hero to the English, and a prominent figure in the Royal Navy during Cook's time.

I've always wondered just who Rodney was. At least now, I have a good idea who he might have been.


  1. Well said on the Tamaki side of things. Heck of a mouthful if you ask me and I have Maori descent? No dishonour to my ancient ancestors meant either. Um Ice? This is a fascinating post. Yeah I always wondered where the name Rodney came from now I know. Interesting trivia for you about Cape Rodney it's the start of the Goat Island Marine Reserve. We used to fish just on the other side of it and get some huge snapper. As I recall somewhere in Papers Past there was a ship wreck or two there as well.

  2. Cheers, Liz. Ol' George Rodney had a pretty good portrait an' all.