Naming tracks with care

It is important when your trail building group names a new track that it accounts for the history, geography and culture of the area.

Names are important and take thought and conversation to get right.

The NZ Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa is New Zealand’s national place naming authority responsible for official place names. It doesn’t name roads, tracks or trails but it does have helpful advice for groups that do.

There are three steps you should consider when naming your new track: Consult, research and check.

1. Consult

The most important step is to consult with everyone who may have an interest in the area where your track is:

  • Start by talking with local iwi, hapū, marae or other groups with ancestral interests. Te Puni Kōkiri Te Kāhui Māngai has information that may help you make contact with local iwi or hapū. Where suitable you maybe want to give preference to an original Māori place name. NZGB has some useful advice on this: 
  • You will also want to talk to the relevant territorial authority/ies.
  • Don’t forget the landholders whose land your track passes over or nearby.
  • And there may be locals who live near your track who have an interest in the area, its history and its future. These locals might include schools, businesses or community groups.

2. Research

Before devising your name make sure you know about the history, geography and heritage of the track you are naming.

For personal name proposals: You want sufficient evidence to connect the person with the area or feature, and the significance of their association with that place.

Historical names: you should provide sufficient evidence about the events, stories and people associated with the place, such as the history, origin or meaning of the name.

Descriptive names: you should provide sufficient evidence to support the way in which the name describes the feature, unless it is obvious from other information provided.

New names: you should provide sufficient reason to justify naming the feature or place. For example, first discovery/ascent rights, or the need to recognise history.

Dual names: you should provide sufficient evidence associated with both names.

The Gazetteer

The Gazetteer is the authoritative source for official place names in New Zealand. We recommend the Gazetteer as a starting point for researching place names. It often includes useful history, origin and meaning information that you could use to support track or trail naming. NZGB has archives that go back to 1915 and are fully digitised, so it can provide you with copies of any of the material referred to in the Gazetteer.

3. Check

Once you have talked with other people, consulted and done your research, do an external check. This might include going back to the people you earlier consulted. It might include asking an outsider for help to check you have not missed anything important.

We can help

If you are not sure where to start when you are naming your new track, make sure you contact our helpful Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa regional field advisors.

Regional field advisors