The tale of ‘it’s only just birds’ one of 21 parks in Ōtara-Papatoetoe to receive Māori Names

Last Updated : 08 Mar 2024
Its only just birds

Twenty-one parks and places in the Ōtara-Papatoetoe area will receive Māori names, as part of Auckland Council’s commitment for te reo Māori to be seen, heard, spoken and learnt.

Dual names have been adopted for sixteen parks, the Papatoetoe Library and Papatoetoe Town Hall. Three parks received sole Māori names.  All the names were officially approved at the Ōtara-Papatoetoe local board business meeting in February, as part of tranche two of the Te Kete Rukuruku programme.

Local board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia says, “Our Māori communities and especially our mana whenua are, and will remain, kaitiaki of this land.

"We are committed, and this is the reason why we are one of the 16 local boards who participate in Te Kete Rukuruku. Working with mana whenua meaningfully and strategically so our community, our public spaces and our decisions are shaped by their values, their manaakitanga and their history.”

Outcomes of the programme include the restoration of mana and mauri (life force) to the area through the return of the Māori language, and raising the visibility of the traditional use and importance of this land to mana whenua.

Auckland Council is fostering the collection and raising the visibility of the distinctive stories that are exclusive to Tāmaki Makaurau. By doing so, it aligns with the council's dedication to promoting the visibility, audibility, usage, and learning of te reo Māori.

Apulu adds, “Māori outcomes are integrated throughout all five themes of our local board plan. Our area has the fourth largest population of Māori in Auckland and our Māori community make up 16 per cent of our local population.

“We’re very fortunate that in our area we have strong mana whenua and mataawaka supporting our community.

“It’s more than just receiving a Māori name, it’s about the beautiful narrative that comes with it. This narrative, plays a crucial role in preserving our Māori identity and sharing that with our community – many of these stories they may have been unaware of.”

One of the 21 sites, Hayman Park, received the Māori name Manu-kau Noa Iho. This is an ancestral name for the Manukau area. An interpretive sign telling the story of this name will be installed in the park and will include a QR code so people can hear and learn the correct pronunciation of the name.

Manu-kau Noa Iho translates to ‘it is only just birds’ and acknowledges the wading birds on the Manukau Harbour.

It references a time when the Tainui canoe was portaged over land to the Manukau Harbour. The tangi (cries) of a multitude of manu tai (sea birds) was heard. At first the sounds were mistaken for the cries of human beings, but later discovered to be ‘only just birds’. Hence the name was given to the harbour and the Manukau area.

Dual park names

A dual name means the Māori name is added to the existing name. This restores and raises visibility of the Māori language, adds a layer of cultural history and meaning whilst retaining any connections between the site and its existing name. For a full list of the eighteen dual Māori names and their narratives, have a read of the report here.

Sole Māori names

The following parks will have sole Māori names:

Māori name

Existing name



Colin Dale Park

*This does not include the premier park and sports precinct which retains the name Colin Dale Park.


Motatau Park

74R Motatau Rd


Puhinui Reserve



In March 2021 the Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee resolved to make the 44.3 hectare motorsport precinct of Colin Dale Park into a premier park. A smaller section adjacent to Puhinui Reserve and behind the main body of Colin Dale Park was split off and remained local park under the jurisdiction of the Ōtara Papatoetoe Local Board, who have agreed it would be sensible to rename this area given the separate use and management of the two sites and avoid any confusion with the sports area.

In April 2021 the local board invited iwi, who have a very strong relationship with this site, to consider a name for it. Given its location and connection with Puhinui Reserve, and the cultural history of this area, iwi chose to extend the name Puhinui over this additional area. 

Apulu adds, “It is important to note that the premier park and sports precinct named Colin Dale Park has no changes to its name and will remain untouched. This name is a homage to former City Manager of Manukau City – Colin Dale, who served 61 years in local government.”

The map below shows the area renamed Puhinui, outlined in red.

The other name the board is urged to consider removing is the name Motatau from Motatau Park and replacing it with Poro-toetoe as the exclusive Māori name for that specific site.

There were two Motatau parks on Motatau Rd, the one renamed Poro-toetoe is located at 74R Motatau Road.  Motatau Reserve on the corner of Motatau Rd and Great South Road has no changes to its name.

Three iwi have provided the names for these sites - Ngaati Te Ata Waiohua, Ngāti Tamaoho and Te Ākitai Waiohua.

About the Te Kete Rukuruku programme

Read more about the Te Kete Rukuruku programme.


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