Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has made it clear he opposes any proposal which involves the renaming of Greerton.
However, one community leader believes it is time to have a “brave conversation” about the background surrounding the Tauranga suburb and a potential future name change.
Greerton is named after Lieutenant-Colonel H.H Greer, a British commanding officer of the 68th Regiment, based in Tauranga from 1864 to 1866.
Greer led the British forces in the Battle of Te Ranga in June 1864 following the Battle of Gate Pa in April the same year.
This affiliation has seen Te Tuinga Whanau executive director Tommy Wilson call on the community to consider a potential name change, an idea he has been bouncing around for about 15 years.
He points out that his own daughter recently attended the Gate Pa site and that the younger community in Tauranga will soon have questions.
“The conversation needs to be had for lots of reasons,” says Tommy. “We teach our at-risk youth and our people the history of Tauranga.
“They will want to know why this place is named after Colonel Greer. He was far worse than Cameron. He almost massacred woman and children, well he did, at Te Ranga.”
Tommy is referring to General Duncan Cameron, whom the main arterial road in Tauranga is named after, who led the British troops in the Battle of Gate Pa.
But Bridges has made it clear he opposes any potential name change.
He suggests it would be a waste of time and an unnecessary inconvenience. He also opines that most residents are likely unaware of the origins of Greerton’s naming in the first place.
“We all know Greerton as Greerton and I doubt many, if any, even know the history of why it’s called that,” he says.
“Let’s not waste time, energy and confuse everyone with a possible name change.”
Tommy highlights the gravitation toward calling Mount Maunganui, Mauao, as an example of how the community might be ready for this change.
The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa can alter the local authority names for a district or region over which a regional council has jurisdiction.
However, as detailed on the Land Information New Zealand website, the NZGB would require the support of any relevant local authority before processing a proposal for a populated place.
That would mean Tauranga City Council would need to be involved, including a formal resolution. TCC have been contacted for comment.
If a proposal to NZGB received objections, the final decision would rest with the Minister for Land Information Damien O’Connor. The Minister’s office confirms there are currently no proposals tabled for any name change at Greerton.
In LINZ’s criteria for place names they encourage the restoration of original Māori place names or the adoption of surnames or ancestral Māori names of a notable leader, of good character, who has a strong association with the area.
Tommy is pleased the issue has sparked some debate, even commending some of the more tongue-in-cheek suggestions that have been shared on social media.
However, he is firm in the belief that any Maori name for Greerton should be easy to pronounce.
“I think a lot of pushback has been that if we use a Maori name that is too long people can’t pronounce it,” he says.
“I think that has to be factored into whatever decision has been made. When that change comes it has to be a Maori name that is easy to pronounce.”
Tommy suggests Taratoa, after Henare Wiremu Taratoa, an Ngai Te Rangi leader who has been attributed with courteous and kind treatment of British soldiers at Gate Pa. He also suggests naming Greerton after Noel Pope, the former Mayor of Tauranga, who passed away in 2019.
Tommy, however, believes the final decision on any potential name change would need to come from in-depth consultation, particularly involving Ngāti Ranginui and their affiliate Hapu.
“It wouldn’t just be one Hapu,” he says. “It would be one broad consultation process. But it is great that it is sparking debate. The decision should be put at the foot of Ngāti Ranginui as this is their area.”
Bridges, however, is strongly of the opinion that the suburb should keep its current designation.
“To change it would be counterproductive and wrong.”