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Bridge name honours culture and history

Whangarei’s spectacular Lower Hatea River Crossing now has an official name – Te Matau a Pohe.
Updated: 17/06/2013 11:02 a.m.


​Whangarei’s spectacular Lower Hatea River Crossing now has an official name – Te Matau a Pohe – translated as 'The fishhook of Pohe' the Maori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei.

Council considered that the name best represented the historical and cultural factors important to the Whangarei District.

The original Pohe Island lay off Riverside Drive and the land in between was reclaimed to form the land that is now referred to as William Fraser Memorial Park on Pohe Island.

It lies within Ngati Kahu O Torongare territory. Wiremu Pohe was a chief of Ngati Kahu. He was also related closely to the hapu of Parawhau whose territory lies on the eastern side of the Hatea River or the Port Road side of the river.

Pohe is the chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei. He was very skilled in manufacturing fish hooks using traditional materials and styles. His hooks were so practical, many of the settlers used his hooks in preference to the standard English hooks made of steel.

He was also instrumental in building bridges between the two cultures during the first years of English settlement amongst Maori. Pohe used his ranking to protect many of the first settlers from being killed.

“We were looking for an inspirational name that fitted the area, aspirations of the people of our District and our history and culture,” said Council’s Roading Manager Jeff Devine.

“The bridge is a truly striking piece of sculpture that reflects who we are, and we wanted to make sure the name resonated with that.

“We know that people will come from afar not only because it is so beautiful, but because it is such an unusual and excellent piece of engineering and roading infrastructure.  We wanted a name that was unique to this place and would be associated with this place whenever anyone talks about the bridge.

“We received 93 submissions, some light-hearted and funny, some probably a bit sarcastic, but many were thoughtful, creative and sincere.

“Te Matau a Pohe came from a panel of kaumatua representing Te Parawhau (Taipari Munro), Ngati Kahu O Torongare (Richard Shepherd), Ngati Wai (Te Warihi Heteraka) and Buster Whautere representing Urban Maori.

“The panel proposed a number of names and ‘Te Matau a Pohe’ (The fish hook of Pohe) was their preferred option.

“A panel of Councillors recommended that this name go forward to Council’s infrastructure and Services meeting and it was adopted.

“Not only did it reflect the early history of the people of this area, it also resonated with the inspiration behind architect Martin Knight’s design.

“Mr Knight, working as part of the Transfield/McConnell Dowell-lead Joint Venture that designed and built the bridge was inspired by the shape of Maori fish hooks and the prows of waka,” Mr Devine said.

“In his original presentation to Council he described how the Maori fish hook shape was an inspiration in the development of his final design and he used the title “He Matau” which is the Maori term for fish hooks (plural), as opposed to “Te Matau” which is a single fish hook.

“I know he too will be happy to see this name selected.”

Mr Devine expressed sincere thanks  to everyone who made a suggestion for the bridge.

“There were some very considered suggestions, so I hope everyone is pleased with the thinking behind this decision.”

Name honours Dave Culham

Three men who played important roles in Whangarei’s history were discussed when Council selected the names of the new bridge across the Hatea River and the road between it and
Riverside Drive.
The bridge has been named Te matau a Pohe, the fish hook of Pohe, after chief Wiremu Pohe. The road to the bridge has been named Dave Culham Drive, after the recently deceased, prominent local businessman and engineer.
His name was one of three considered along with William Fraser Drive and Iwitahi Drive from almost 60 names put forward by the community in April and May.
“Under our roading policy we needed to ensure there was a reason for each name.  That includes things like the meaning, origins, historic background, relationship with a theme or a link to the area. We look for names that reflect the historical, geographical or cultural significance associated with an area, including the names of noteworthy people.  It is also important that names are appropriate, spelt correctly, interpreted correctly and are not offensive.
“In this case the decision has been to name it after the recently departed Dave Culham, a business man, former District councillor and supporter of community groups and sporting organisations,” said Council’s Roading Manager Jeff Devine.
“Dave had a significant influence on the lives of hundreds of Whangarei people and on the City itself in the past half a century.
“William Fraser was also a strong candidate, so although his name is not on the road,  it is good to know that he is already recognised through the name of the park William Fraser Memorial Park on Pohe Island,” he said. 
“Again, it was great to see the public put such a lot of thought time and effort into all the suggestions for both the bridge and the road. We had some really good material to choose from.”



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