Ngai Tahu leaders reiterate support for Toitu

Ngai Tahu tangata whenua and runanga have made it clear they do not share the views of a Dunedin-based kaumatua concerning use of the word Toitu.

The Dunedin City Council voted on Monday to add the Maori word to the title of the redeveloped Otago Settlers Museum.

Toitu is to be used above the words Otago Settlers Museum in signage etc.

The announcement prompted public criticism on Tuesday from maori elder Huata Holmes, suggesting the placement was arrogant and not in keeping with tradition.

Donna Matahaere, the chairwoman of Te Runanga o Otakou, said Toitu resonated with local Maori for several reasons.

Firstly, because of the proximity of the Toitu stream to the museum, secondly the name Toitu was a symbol of permanence and thirdly the relevance of the site to the first European settlement in the upper harbour.

"We [Otakou runanga and Ngati Huirapa Runanga ki Puketeraki] are utterly supportive of the name ... and appreciate the consideration given by the committee and the Dunedin City Council to the inclusion of a tangata whenua name."

The use of Toitu above or below Otago Settlers Museum was welcome, she said.

It was the gift from the mana whenua being used that really mattered.

Ngati Huirapa ki Puketeraki Runanga chairman Matapura Ellison said runanga kaumatua Edward Ellison spoke to Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull before the decision, making clear to him the runanga's position.

"The gifting of such names is ultimately an issue of mana and something that only the two runanga can do and we are delighted that the council has received this name in the spirit that it was proposed."

According to Ngai Tahu traditions, the name Toitu referred to the stream which ran down the valley where Rattray St is, he said.

The land where Dunedin sits was once a seasonal camping site, a food gathering area and an accessway to the Taieri water system.

In the mid-1840s, huts existed on the site of the corner of modern-day Rattray and Princes Sts, exactly where the Toitu stream exited, he said.


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