Girl from Karanema

I’m in a Wellington cafe, at a coffee meeting with a colleague from Ngāti Kahungunu.  We are both born in Hastings, so that is a nice start.   Then after a while he says, “Actually, I am not really from Hastings, I am from Flaxmere.”  And I say, “Actually I am not really from Hastings either, I am from Havelock North”.  And he says, “I don’t always admit I am from Flaxmere, in case people judge me.”  And I say, “I don’t always admit I am from Havelock North either, in case people judge me.”  And we laugh and joke about “Flashmere” and “Have-a-lot”.

The Hastings District Council recently made the excellent choice to put up road signs incorporating both Māori place names and English ones.  For my hometown, it says Karanema and Havelock North.  So it turns out I am a Girl from Karanema.  Well OK, I am a bit old to be described as a girl – but the phrase has a nice ring to it, and it makes me want to sing a new version of this song.

Seriously though, my hometown is named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock, a British military man involved in colonial wars in Burma, Afghanistan and, most famously,  India.  Sir Henry Havelock does not appear to have set foot in Aotearoa New Zealand, although his son, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Marshman Havelock-Allan, was here in the 1860s and involved in the invasion of the Waikato.  So Havelock North is an uncomfortable name, to put it mildly.  And it is not even unique – the word “North” was added to distinguish it from the town of the same name in the South Island.

Karanema, on the other hand, was a local, the son of Te Hapuku, an influential 19th century rangatira.  The Karanema Reserve is Havelock North land originally reserved forever for Karanema’s descendants, which was nevertheless soon acquired by the government for settlement.  Sigh.  Another historical wrong which I was completely unaware of.

But properly acknowledging Māori place names is a start, and is a heartening if belated trend nationwide.  It is great to see Hastings at the forefront of this, and congratulations to mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, the Hastings District Council and Iwi from this old girl from Karanema.


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