Friday, January 11, 2013

What's in a name change? - Saxon to Kuaka Reserve

At the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society meeting in December last year, a few came up to me remarking on the renaming of Saxon Reserve, a piece of green space at the corner of Saxon Street and Oakley Avenue, to Kuaka Reserve. I was also surprised that the name Kuaka had been chosen by the Albert-Eden Local Board, considering the strength of the ties of the Goodwin family (who owned part of the now-enlarged reserve, land fronting Alford Street) for much of the last century (see Tony Goodwin’s article in the November/December Avondale Historical Journal.)

Well, they officially opened the renamed reserve in December — and I went looking through the agendas of the local board to find out how the name Kuaka got into the mix.

Eleven iwi had been contacted. According to the report submitted to the local board (5 September 2012), eight didn't respond, one was “happy for other iwi to do it”, and "two, Ngati Whatua and Ngati Te Ata-Waiohua, wrote back in support of a non-ancestral name, and suggested ‘Kuaka’. This refers to the Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa laponica), which has been a traditionally valuable food source for Maori. Kuaka is well documented as a champion long-haul migratory species that flies over this part of the Waitemata Harbour en route to the Kaipara Harbour, before returning to its breeding sites around the China Sea, and in Kamchatka and Alaska."

The choices presented to the public on voting papers were therefore these: 
Oakley Park: “The original name given to the park when it was gifted to the Crown in 1922.” (True — due to the adjoining Oakley Avenue.) 
Saxon Reserve: “The existing name of the park. The original name of Oakley Park was changed to avoid confusion with nearby Oakley Creek Reserve. There is no historical significance attached to this name.” (Except, of course, that a lot of folks in Waterview knew the original reserve by this name, and Saxon Street is right there.) 
Goodwin Reserve: “Mr John Goodwin and his descendants owned the land that was recently purchased by NZTA to enlarge the park since 1907.”  
Kuaka Reserve: “Kuaka is the Maori name for the Godwit, a wading bird that migrates to Waterview from Alaska every year. This bird was a valuable food source for Maori and can still be seen over our summer months feeding in the nearby intertidal zones.”

According to “Populations of the godwit embark on some of the longest migrations known among birds. They start arriving here in New Zealand about mid–September and disperse throughout the country including the Chatham Islands. They flock in a few favoured places, including the Firth of Thames and Ohiwa Harbour. They leave New Zealand in March and early April and arrive in the northern hemisphere in May and early June.” The godwit is therefore not specific to Waterview — if anything, it has and has had more to do with the Manukau and Kaipara Harbours. One might as well have suggested any other NZ bird name — it would have had just as much local relevance.

Now, not that I'm against Maori names on our landscape -- I tried to get the Avondale Community Board to go with "Motu Manawa Place" instead of "Jomac Place" on Rosebank a few years back. But when only two iwi responded with a suggestion (one of which simply backed the other), and more people connected with Waterview or that particular piece of land responded saying they either wanted no change, or the name Goodwin if there had to be a change ... we are now left with a generic name for a reserve. I challenge anyone to tell me godwits landed there, when they're more likely to have headed for the shellbanks of Motu Manawa Reserve. “Kuaka” is more a Rosebank heritage name, rather than Waterview.

At the 11 August community open day to put in votes for a name for the reserve, there were only 22 votes cast: Oakley Park (2 votes), Saxon Reserve (6 votes), Goodwin Park (8 votes) [five family members voted, as the staff noted], Kuaka Reserve (4 votes), Taylor Park (2 votes) [another former land owner family], and Goodwin-Taylor Park (1 vote). According to the Council staff's report: "The fact that local community feedback from the 11 August open day produced 23 responses indicates a lack of broad community support or concern for a specific name. The Local Board may wish to regard this as evidence in support of no change, or it may decide in favour of one of the names voted on at the open day."

And so, as I said earlier, the Albert-Eden Local Board decided to go with Kuaka Reserve. Farewell, Saxon Reserve — it was nice to have known you.


  1. Inertia equals lack of interest in change, I would have thought. Unless the Goodwin family donated land, I would not have thought that an appropriate name, but such names are often used. While I don't see much point in renaming it, Kuaka Reserve sound nice enough.

  2. I think this is it -- the name sounds nice, so it was plastered on the reserve. I don't think the name needed to have changed, but apparently the reserve is thought to be a "new" reserve now. All moot, it's changed, fait accompli and all that. But if folk in the future want to know why it's named after a bird which doesn't go there -- there you have it.

  3. They should have a)either left it as Saxon or b) Changed it to Goodwin as the votes showed it was the most preferred option.

    Yeah Kuaka sounds nice but.....a big fat nothing the Gotwits have to do with the immediate area. Some up my way though...

  4. That's okay, Liz -- had my share of typo as well. Thanks for pointing it out! :)