Dispute over naming NZ’s ‘newest lake’ goes all the way to the top

New Zealand’s “newest lake” has been officially named after three years of debate that ended with the Geographic Board unable to settle on a name and referring the matter to the Land Information Minister.

The 13-hectare lake was formed in February 2018 after a huge landslide dammed the Mangapōike River, near Gisborne.

The lake was discovered later a top-dressing pilot spotted it on February 28 and told Mangapōike Farm owner Dan Jex-Blake about it.

Jex-Blake, the fourth-generation owner of the farm, did not fully appreciate the scale of the landslide until he flew over it a short time later.

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He couldn’t quite believe what he saw.

The lake shortly after it was created in February 2018.

SUPPLIED

The lake shortly after it was created in February 2018.

Where there was once a grass-covered bluff was now a vertical wall, a massive scar of debris and mud, and where there was once the clear-flowing Mangapōike River was a fast-growing lake.

The slip, believed to have occurred overnight on February 24/25, saw nearly 3000 cubic meters of rocks and earth move down the hill and is what scientists have called a significant national event – ​​as big as any in the Kaikōura earthquake in 2016.

The lake is bounded by Jex-Blake’s farm and also Paparatu Station, owned by Te Whakaari Incorporation, and is not accessible to the public.

Lake Te Horonui and the landslide that created it.

SUPPLIED/Linz

Lake Te Horonui and the landslide that created it.

Jex-Blake and the Gisborne District Council began referring to the lake as Lake Mangapōike in the months after it was formed, but in 2019 Te Whakaari decided it should be called Lake Te Horonui – or “the great landslide”.

In April 2021 the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa accepted Te Whakaari’s proposal to assign Lake Te Horonui as the new official name.

But in July 2021, after hearing five objections to the proposed name, the Board rejected the name and decided instead to publicly consult on the name Lake Mangapōike, which was backed by respected local historian Mere Whaanga.

Mangapoike Farm owner Dan Jex-Blake with the newly formed lake a few months after it was formed by the landslide.  (File photo)

MARTY SHARPE/Stuff

Mangapoike Farm owner Dan Jex-Blake with the newly formed lake a few months after it was formed by the landslide. (File photo)

The Board felt Te Horonui had no ancestral connection or historical relevance, whereas the lake had been formed by Mangapōike River waters and the river’s waters could not be separated from the new lake.

But Te Whakaari Inc was unhappy with the proposed name and in December 2021, after consultation among its members, decided the name Te Horonui should be given to the lake and requested that the Board “reinstates and formally recognizes” their original proposal for Lake Te Horonui .

Te Whakaari said Lake Mangapōike had not been proposed by mana whenua, “who have authority and ownership of the lake and the land it is on so have the right to name it”. Te Whakaari also felt that:

  • Te Horonui described the landslide and there wouldn’t be a lake if it hadn’t occurred.
  • Lake Te Horonui would inspire a new kōrero and mūjā (folklore).
  • The Mangapōike name is firmly entrenched in surrounding lands with its own history and mana and the lakebed will retain its Mangapōike land title; and.
  • Incorrect and misleading information was provided in the submissions objecting to Lake Te Horonui.
Minister for Land Information Damien O'Connor has decided on a name for the lake.  (File photo)

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Minister for Land Information Damien O’Connor has decided on a name for the lake. (File photo)

Submissions closed in May.

The Board received 10 submissions in favor of Lake Mangapōike and four in opposition.

In July the Board concluded both names had equal merit and it felt there was “benefit from more local discussion and encourages the community to discuss (possibly on a marae) what the most appropriate official name of the lake should be”.

Gisborne District Council

Explosives were used on the earth and boulder dam formed by the slip that created Mangapōike Lake.

“The Board does not consider now to be the right time for it to be involved in this decision given the strongly held opposing/divided views for both names, and that over time one or the other of the two names will emerge as the preference and could then be brought back to the Board to be made official,” it said in July, adding it would report this decision to the Minister for Land Information Damien O’Connor and request he confirm that no name be assigned to the lake at this time so that the community can discuss further.

On Monday the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa announced the lake would be named Lake Te Horonui after O’Connor had settled on the name after considering all submissions.

“The lake needed a name and Lake Te Horonui, meaning ‘the great landslide’, is a unique name that describes the significant natural event that created the lake,” O’Connor said.

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