A bid to change the Clive River’s name has received a huge boost with the launch of an online petition by the Aotearoa NZ Green Party.
“Restore the Mana, Restore the Name,” says the petition which calls for the Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa/ NZ Geographic Board to return the river to its original name – ‘Ngaruroro Moko-tū-ā-raro ki Rangatira’ – and asks that mana whenua be consulted on a suggested shortened version to ‘Ngaruroro Moko’.
The naming of Clive River dates back to 1975 when the Ngaruroro River was diverted down a new channel near Pakowhai Country Park as part of a flood control scheme. The old channel was blocked off becoming the primary outlet for the Raupare and Karamu streams and was re-named the Clive River after the nearby town’s namesake: Major-General Robert Clive, widely considered the British Empire’s Founder in India.
This has all the trappings of colonialisation, says Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Green List MP based in Tarawhiti, who is supporting the petition.
“The town and then the river were named after a man who never even came here. There is no good reason for it,” she says. “It was a name just plucked out of the past.”
For mana whenua like Aki Arconnehi Paipper and her whanau who grew up at Kohupatiki Marae beside the old Ngaruroro, the name change to Clive and the river’s ongoing degradation endangering the survival of endemic species such as the long fin eel and patiki (black Flounder) is a travesty that she has been fighting for years.
“We need to change the name to get our mana back,” she says, “and to honour our ancestors who came on the Takitimu”.
Aki, her sister Margie McGuire and their whanau have formed Operation Patiki to fight for the river’s name and for its health. Eels fished up from the river recently were covered in green slime and where once it was a place to swim on hot summer’s day, now no one goes near the polluted river waters.
Operation Patiki has done a lot of planting by the river and Aki says despite all, “I believe the awa’s mauri is still alive”.
She tells the story of how the river got its name: “Moko-tū-ā-raro was one of three sons of high priest Ruawharo who entered Te Matau-a-Maui on the Waka Takitimu. The three sons were placed as mauri to extend the fishing grounds and protect the abundance of kaimoana. One was placed near Mahia, one near Tangoio and Moko-tū-ā -raro was placed at the mouth of the Ngaruroro ad Tukituki Rivers.
“Today this mauri is still present.
“Ngaruroro was named after Mahu the explorer, who was traversing the awa when his dog disturbed a shoal of grayling fish or upokororo (now extinct in these waters). “This created ripples on the waters hence the name Ngaruroro.”
For Dr Kerekere, giving the original name back to the local community will right a wrong and re-enforce cultural and spiritual connections to the past.
“Names are powerful,” she says. “They define the landscape around us and how we see the world. Restoring the name of the awa to Ngaruroro Moko-tū-ā-raro-ki-Rangatira keeps alive and celebrates the intrinsic connection of mana whenua to tīpuna awa.”
The online, and a paper petition, close in early May. The Green Party is employing engineers to map the exact location and length of the original Ngaruroro channel.
Aki and Operation Patiki will then present the petition to the NZ Geographic Board/Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa by the end of May. For her it is a wonderful manifestation of a recent dream she had in which the river was given back its name.
“The river has been abused,” she says, “and our community need this uplift.”