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New Whairepo Lagoon sign reinforces te reo Māori name

A new sign installed at Whairepo Lagoon on Wellington’s waterfront removes any confusion regarding the name the lagoon has held since 2015.

From left, Port Nicholson Block Deputy Chairman Peter Jackson, Wellington Deputy Mayor Jill Day and Tenths Trust Chairman Morrie Love, with the new sign at Whairepo Lagoon. Photo: Wellington City Council

The new sign has the words “Whairepo Lagoon” etched into wooden planks in the garden near The Boatshed and can be easily seen from the north side of the lagoon. It uses existing features to ensure the character of the area was retained.

Whairepo Lagoon received its official name from the New Zealand Geographic Board in December 2015, but the name is still not widely known.

“Whairepo” refers to the Australasian eagle rays that swim in the artificial lagoon in the warmer months (whai = ray; repo = mudflat), and can be spotted sunning themselves near the rocks.

The name was submitted to the Board by mana whenua Taranaki Whānui, after being given by kaumātua Sam Jackson. His son, Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust Deputy Chairman Peter Jackson, says his father would have been proud to see the work that has been done to acknowledge the name.

“Dad would have been very pleased,” Mr Jackson said. “The name highlights the silent inhabitants of the lagoon and is a reminder of our collective responsibility to the environment.”

Wellington Tenths Trust Chairman Morrie Love said the name was poetically appropriate for the area.

“Sam had a passion for the sea and this lagoon. He knew the eagle rays visited the lagoon and started the kōrero about capturing their presence in the name.”

Deputy Mayor Jill Day was also pleased to see the name permanently recognised.

“Our new te reo Māori policy, Te Tauihu, is not just about new ideas, events and names, but about acknowledging the past and the existing Māori contributions in our city.

“The Whairepo that inhabit the lagoon are considered guardians of the area, but many don’t know about the Māori name of the lagoon or the creatures that live in or visit the water in our warmer months.”

The Deputy Mayor explained that the carved words of the sign haven’t been painted or stained, and will fade back over time as the knowledge of the name grows.

“Our waterfront is unique in that it doesn’t have much overt signage. We wanted to respect that, but also find a way to help people know the special name of our lagoon.”