Topic: Tukapa Street (TDN 21/08/2010)

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Tukapa Street 

If you stand too long inTukapa Street, you could be blinded by lightning and that might affect how you “see” the street name. Certainly we know that there was an area called “Tukapo” by local Maori, which is in part traversed by today’sTukapa Streetand that locality eventually gave its name to the street.

It was originally named the Elliot Road after a local pioneer. Early maps show it as Elliot Road as late as 1909, but certainly by 1930 it was called Tukapo Street

In 1844, after governor Fitz Roy had negotiated for the block of land known as the Fitzroy block, local iwi went over the boundaries with Pakeha officials: Donald McLean, T. S. Forsaith, Rev. John Whiteley and Octavius Carrington.

In the first part of these reported boundaries, it stated that …” [they] commenced at the western side of the mission station at a place called Te Wahitapu, thence along the survey line to Tukapo…”  So the locality had been established in the mind of the colonists as Tukapo quite early on.

The origin of the word is reported by Fred Butler, a local historian, in the Taranaki Herald in July 1952 in which he recalls a story handed down by local Maori. Apparently a chief was on his way to a neighbouring pa during a violent thunderstorm and was temporarily blinded by a flash of lightning as he stood watching the storm. He then named the place Tu kapo meaning “to stand blinded”.

Butler therefore inferred that the alternate spelling of Tukapa, as in the rugby club, was incorrect.

However, around 1968 the street name changed to Tukapa at the request of the Taranaki chief surveyor, Colin Allen, who said his research led him to believe that that was the correct spelling. We cannot find his reasoning recorded, but the decision stood.

Notwithstanding recent debates regarding the spelling of other place names, there has to be something of a negotiated element to the acceptance of correct spelling, especially when transliterating an oral language. Perhaps we are all a bit blind to our own prejudice. For the time being anyway the street is officiallyTukapa Street.


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Tukapa Street (TDN 21/08/2010)

City:New Plymouth