Burning question: what’s really in a
Street names are signs of the times.
They are more than just a marker of where our homes, offices and favourite shops can be found. Every street name has a tale to tell.
From them we can deduce who our early settlers were, what was important to them and what is important to us now.
Early Wellington street names included Aurora Tce, Bolton Tce, Cuba St and Oriental Bay. They were named after the New Zealand Company ships that brought the first wave of early settlers.
New Zealand was settled during the reign of Queen Victoria and ties to the monarchy were strong, so it is not surprising that many roads were given regal monikers.
Queen and Victoria streets, roads and avenues can be found in towns and cities up and down the country. In the Wellington region there is Queen St in Upper Hutt and in Island Bay; Queens Drive, Lower Hutt and Lyall Bay; Queens Rd, Waikanae; and Queen’s Ave, Porirua.
And Wellington, Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt each have a Victoria St. However, neither Queen nor Victoria are the county’s most popular street names. That gong goes to Beach Rd and George St. According to Terralink International data there are 76 Beach Rds and 76 George Sts nationwide.
Taking away the ‘‘street’’ part of the name, Beach drops to second place, behind Park, but still appears 101 times. George disappears altogether.
In the Wellington region, Porirua and Paekakariki have a Beach Rd and Island Bay and Lower Hutt have a Beach St.
Lambton Quay was initially known as Beach St. It was the foreshore, hence the name, until the 1855 earthquake lifted the land along the northwestern side of the harbour.
The street was renamed Lambton Quay for John Lambton, the first Earl of Durham and the first chairman of directors of the New Zealand Company.
So, who is responsible for street names these days? And do the residents even get a say?
City and district councils have the responsibility for naming roads, walkways and private roads.
Each council has its own policies but must adhere to the Australian and New Zealand standard for address and street names.
Wellington City Council enterprise data management team leader Michael Brownie said the standard had just been updated and one of the main changes was that local iwi must be consulted when considering names.
In the past five years the council has approved 20 street names, of which 14 were public roads. The others were private rights of way and pedestrian walkways or came about because of new road layout. Part of Vivian St became an addition to Buller St after Vivian St was split by Karo Drive.
In 2006, Te Aro school pupils won a council-run competition to find a name for the stretch of the inner-city bypass between Cuba and Willis streets. The pupils told us the ‘‘K’’ represented kids and ‘‘Aro’’ their school. More recently, names have been given to streets in a new Woodridge subdivision: Red Beach Ave, Tea Tree Lane and Lacebark Lane, which were approved in August.
‘‘They follow the tree names theme that has been used in Woodridge,’’ Mr Brownie said.
‘‘St Vincent Pl, St Lucia Pl and St Kitts Pl were named in 2009 and follow the Caribbean theme for Grenada Village.’’ He said several Wellington suburbs were considered to have a theme.
Many Brooklyn roads are named for American political figures, usually presidents, and include Washington Ave, Jefferson St, Garfield St and Lincoln St.
Khandallah has an Indian theme, thanks to settler Captain James Andrew, who had served in the Indian Army. The suburb was named for Khandallah, Rajasthan, and has streets named after other areas in India, including Burma Rd, Simla Cres and Delhi Cres.
Karori and Ngaio streets are named after early residents, Island Bay after European rivers (Severn St), and Hataitai after native trees (Hinau St and Rata, Matai and Rewa roads).
Mr Brownie said when considering a name, the council discouraged those that were similar to existing ones. The council has recently been asked to consider changing the name of Herald Tce, after a resident said it was frequently confused with Herald St. Both are in Berhampore.
‘‘We recommended he spoke to neighbours so we would know if others wanted a change before staring the formal process for a name change.
‘‘Most of the numbers used by Herald Tce are also used in Herald St, so it is very likely people looking for Herald Tce addresses would look at Herald St and not realise there is another with a similar name,’’ Mr Brown said.
The council considered emergency services when naming or renaming a road. A name was not likely to be selected if it would be too hard for emergency services’ call centres to recognise.
‘‘For example, in 1990, when Hania St was named, the following spellings were considered: Xavia, Khania, Chanea and Hania.
‘‘After consultation with the Cretans Association of New Zealand, the spelling Hania was selected,’’ Mr Brownie said.
The Greek community has long links with Mt Victoria, where Hania St is found. Hence their involvement in naming Hania St.
The time taken to name a street or road varied, Mr Brownie said. ‘‘If the name is for a private right-of-way and all the affected residents agree with a proposal, then a name can be approved in less than a month from the initial request.’’ It can take longer if those affected do not agree. Although the council makes the final decision, if there are different suggestions, all affected parties – including emergency services and iwi – will be consulted.
‘‘The name has to be approved by the council and the council must make sure that a name is not going to be offensive or confusing.’’
Mr Brownie said it could take as long as six months to approve a street name.
STREET ART: Terralink International staff created a piece of visual art depicting New Zealand’s most common street names.
OLD TIME: Local teacher William Holmes painted this early scene of what is now Lambton Quay but was first known as Beach St.