Aki Arconnehi Paipper, who tirelessly and successfully campaigned for re-naming the former Clive River to Te Awa o Mokotūāraro, died this week, aged 80 years old.
Only two weeks ago Aki contacted BayBuzz thrilled to say the New Zealand Geographic Board had ruled that the Clive river’s name was now officially changed.
It was a battle that Aki and her whanau had been fighting ever since 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.
For Aki 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) was a travesty. She told me how eels fished up from the river in recent years were covered in green slime and where once it was a place to swim on hot summer’s day, now no one went near the polluted river waters.
With her sister Margie McGuire and their whanau, they formed Operation Patiki to fight for the river’s name and for its health.
“The river has been abused and our community need this uplift,” Aki told me back in May 2022 when I visited her at her retirement home in Flaxmere.
“We need to change the name to get our mana back. And we need to honour our ancestors who came on the Takitimu.”
She told me the story of how the river got its original name, which was Ngaruroro Moko-tū-ā-raro-ki-Rangatira .
“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 and 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.”
Aki phoned numerous times over the past year to give me updates on the name change. I can’t claim to have known her other than that, but I felt her dogged passion for the awa and I hope she can rest in peace now, her bold fight and name forever tied to Te Awa o Mokotūāraro.
From the editor, Tom Belford
Aki was one of the first environmentalists I met in Hawke’s Bay, back in 2008.
At our first meeting in 2008 she insisted on walking me along the Karamu in Whakatu, telling its story and pointing out the pipes leaking ooze from nearby businesses (no longer happening in large part to her persistent advocacy), leading to a front-page story in what was just the third issue of BayBuzz Digest, our initial tabloid newspaper.
Through these last 15 years Aki has been steadfast in her commitment to protect the mauri of our local waterways … and a staunch defender of the interests of Whakatu (fighting odours, unhealthy airbourne wool fibres, unsafe traffic).
She was a valued advisor to me and an ally on many causes. A true inspiration. Leaders like Aki motivate so many others to stand up, speak up and do vital work for the community. I know she motivated me. Like them, I’ll miss her deeply.
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