New Zealand Geographic Board announces Kamo to become Te Kamo

Kamo’s name is now officially Te Kamo. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The Whangārei suburb of Kamo has officially had its name restored to Te Kamo to right a wrong and raise awareness of the area’s history.

Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa New Zealand Geographic Board announced on Wednesday that Kamo has been renamed Te Kamo.

The proposal was lodged by Ngāti Kahu-o-Torongare and several hapū to better honour the prominent rangatira [chief] and tūpuna [ancestor] in the area called Te Kamo.

They described in their proposal how Te Kamo was a leader who worked behind the scenes to guide hapū alongside other rangatira. They said he worked hard to ensure his people living at Te Kamo were safe and prosperous.


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Kaumātua Richard Shepherd said there was a big push to restore the name Te Kamo because of the historical figure’s great importance.

Huhana Lyndon and Richard Shepherd lodged a proposal to change the name of the Whangārei suburb Kamo to Te Kamo. Photo / Tania Whyte
Huhana Lyndon and Richard Shepherd lodged a proposal to change the name of the Whangārei suburb Kamo to Te Kamo. Photo / Tania Whyte

Board chairperson Anselm Haanen said the record of the Crown’s purchase of the ‘Te Kamo’ block in 1858 reflected the original name of the kāinga [village] and land.

“In the years since the name has been unofficially shortened to Kamo,” he said.

“So this decision restores and raises awareness of the history of the name and corrects a grievance of mana whenua that the name is spelled incorrectly.”


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Shepherd noted that some places in Kamo were using the suburb’s original name, such as Te Kamo Kindergarten.

“I think the feeling that we have is that while it’s a general issue happening around the country, people are recognising that Māori place names particularly have a real and important meaning.”

Anselm said in te reo Māori, the word Te is often used to elevate the status and mana of a person.

“It is just as an important part of a name as the Scottish Mac in MacDonald, for example.”

Shepherd hoped the name restoration would bring the area’s history back to life for the younger generation already asking questions about the area’s past.

He said Te Kamo is rich in history. He gave the example of Te Kamo’s pā site, Te Rauponga, which was situated on the grass area behind the Kamo War Memorial Hall on Grant St and extended down to where the Kamo bypass now is. That section of the main highway is now called Te Rauponga.

Former Ngātiwai Trust Board chief executive Huhana Lyndon, who has whakapapa to the hapū, earlier spoke about the proposed change saying it would help improve pronunciation because the suburb’s name was often mangled.

However, the restoration was not welcomed by everyone. Of the 651 submissions, 535 opposed the change and 116 supported it.

Those against the proposal were concerned about the long-term use of the name Kamo and their strong personal associations as well as the costs associated with the change.

But the board ruled those concerns did not outweigh its reasons to support the change.


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Official documents such as maps, websites, databases, and tourist publications will need to use Te Kamo. Road signs referring to Kamo will need to be updated with Te Kamo as they age and are replaced as part of regular maintenance.

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