The Harbour of many names

Te Whanganui a Tara, Port Nicholson, Lambton Harbour – Wellington’s harbour and waterfront has gone by many names.

The earliest known name for Wellington city, derived from Maori legend, is Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui or the head of Maui’s fish.

Te Whanganui a Tara is another name Maori gave the area – a name said to come from Whatonga’s son Tara who was sent down from the Mahia Peninsula by his father to explore southern lands for their people to settle. It literally means the great harbour of Tara.

Port Nicholson is said to have been named by Captain James Herd who sailed into the Harbour of Tara in 1826 and left it with its first European name, calling it after Sydney’s Harbourmaster Captain John Nicholson.

Lambton Harbour is thought to have been named by Colonel Wakefield in 1839 in honour of the Earl of Durham whose family was called Lambton.

The Earl was the Governor of the New Zealand Company, which brought the first settlers to our shores.  An alternative source could have been the cutter Lambton commanded by Captain Barnett, who produced one of the earliest charts of the harbour in 1826.