Clive River or Ngaruroro Moko?

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 Arconnehi Paipper

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.”

See the petition here.


Join the Conversation


  1. Great article that tells us things we may not have known. Aki and Margie are inspiring.

    1. Kia ora,

      Flooding was the reason the awa was diverted, so no change to the current course .1867 flood was the reason Kohupatiki was re positioned to its current location.

    2. Thank you Dan, Given the state of our waters, in this case the Clive who never stepped foot in NZ. Its time to make historic corrections and clean up . NZ is not 100% pure.

  2. I have no problem with changing names if the majority of the community agree.
    Unfortunately that’s not what’s happening. A noisy minority stir up a controversy about an existing name and a non elected board rubber stamps the change.
    Names do matter. Lets all have a say

    1. Back in 1972 no in depth consultation took place when the river was diverted. with the Maori community. The original name was usurped and renamed Clive. If you research who he was you will know he never stepped foot in NZ and was associated with the British army in Bengal. Again our historic past stolen.

    2. Operation Pātiki are not a “noisy minority”. They are very graciously going through the government process. They also represent the kaitiaki of the river since the 1300’s.

  3. This is the right thing to do and another local educational tool. Well written article. I support.

  4. In the mean time, in the real life world, Covid’s running rampant throughout our country, our hospitals are overrun, umpteen thousands of people are homeless, violent crimes have skyrocketed, NZ debt is the highest its Ever been! Not to mention the wicked war in Ukraine. Children dying from starvation…..the list of human misery and tradedgies is endless!

    Yet a green m p and some rousers spend, more like squander their time on changing a name? Most wouldn’t ever of known about.
    Get real.


    1. Māori organisations were at the forefront of the Covid response, as evidenced at the recent Napier Pilot City awards. They and kaitiaki environmental groups (like Operation Pātiki) more than pull their weight when it comes to helping Aotearoa become a more caring place.

      The original name of the awa was directly related to nature. Ngaru = ripples and Roro = abbreviation of upokororo (which were prolific fish at the time that the river was named). Moko = abbreviation of Moko-tū-ā-raro ki Rangatira, who was the ancestor placed at the river mouth to protect it.

      Kohupātiki marae whānau invited Dr Elizabeth Kerekere MP to listen to their concerns, including recounts of the history and degradation of their river. This included accounts from esteemed local historian Patrick Parsons and geographical accounts that had been presented to HBRC. Whānau also talked about the bounty of the river when they grew up, when they were able to swim in the river, eat from the river, and live a healthy lifestyle in harmony with the river.

      Dr Elizabeth Kerekere MP and local Greens are now supporting mana whenua with their petition, as a step in improving the health of the awa. The hard work of mana whenua, with riparian planting and advocating for river health at council level, carries on.

  5. This is real. Blaming current challenges to say the name change is not warranted , is another excuse for accepting what was forced back in the time has no actual relevance to the present. Our Tipuna suffered abuse , starvation, homelessness , dispossession. discrimination. Its still here happening again. When will you put an end to it? If you feel for what is happening in the world today is injustice.

  6. Just wondering if anyone has considered the possibility that diverting the Ngaruroro may have caused a problem with not enough water going down the original channel through Clive..? I think the diversion should have been set up as an overflow course to prevent flooding but the flow through Clive should not have been completely blocked off. I think that could be done with some kind of weir at the start of the diversion. Typical of Catchment Board thinking at that time before it became HBRC – it was all about “draining swamps” etc., but now they are busily “restoring wetlands”

    1. Cuz Yes I feel the same, I see the Marae changing before my eyes without prior consultation and input. Our Awa has been usurped since 1975. I have been off shore for 43 years, not one of you stood up for our Marae korero.
      I make no apology you have no guts to stand for our Tipuna.,

  7. Full consultation was given at Kohupatiki. Powhiri and presentation given to Dr Elizabeth Kerekere and her team Green Party plus locals and whanau.
    Te Karere interviews at the Awa on the day. Timely, the cutters were doing their thing and it was obvious this is an on going practice that does not improve the obvious.

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