Kupe Sites 

Social Studies at Te Papa

Programme title

Kupe Sites


Ngā Tapuwae o Kupe | Landmarks of the Great Voyager


Should Māori place names be reinstated where English names are being used?

This issue is important for students developing awareness and understanding because:

  • They will gain an appreciation of Māori epistemology and Māori perspectives.
  • They will gain an appreciation of the many elements that help form our identity as New Zealanders.
  • They will gain an appreciation of the significance and history of the naming of various places throughout the country by the explorer Kupe.
  • It will enable students to develop the skills for Inquiry and Values Exploration.
  • They will appreciate that any change to place names requires legal processes.


Years 6-9
Levels 3-5

Learning area

Social Studies


Place and Environment

Links to other curriculum areas

English - Listening, Reading, and Viewing; Speaking, Writing, and Presenting.
Science - Planet Earth and Beyond
Mathematics - Geometry and Measurement


Excellence, Innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, Diversity.

Key Competencies

Thinking, Relating to others, Participating and contributing

Strand achievement objectives

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experience to:

  • Understand how the movement of people affets cultural diversity and interaction in New Zealand.
  • Understand how exploration and innovation create opportunities and challenges for people, places, and environments.
  • Understand that people move between places and how this has consequences for the people and the places.

Learning outcomes and intentions

  • Research the stories about Kupe’s voyage from Hawaiki (the traditional homeland) to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Identify some of the areas Kupe named and the reasons why they were given those names.
  • Understand what life may have been like for Kupe when he arrived in this strange new land.
  • Research how English names were applied to different areas within your community, and find out the original Māori names.
  • Make a choice about whether Māori place names should be reinstated.
  • Design a set of criteria that will become the basis for which the community makes a decision.
  • Describe the legal process for the reinstatement of Māori place names.
  • Decide what possible action will be taken by the classroom community.

Learning experiences

Lesson one

  • Research some of the stories about Kupe’s voyage to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Identify some of the sites Kupe named, and the significance of the names to the area.
  • Encourage students to think about what are heritage sites, and whether they should they be maintained.
  • Get students to describe a place that is significant to them, and the reason why it is important to them.

Lesson two

  • Encourage students to construct a comparison chart showing technology 1200 years ago and today's technology.
  • Research a particular tool used by early Māori eg: wiri (drill), kete (woven basket), matau (fish hook), toki (axe) etc, and make the tool using modern materials.

Lesson three

  • Research how English names were applied to different areas, and who named those areas.
  • Identify some sites within your community that have English names, and who gave those names to those areas.
  • Investigate the original Māori names and the stories surrounding those names.

Lesson four

  • Guided discussion: whole class.
  • Compile a questionnaire to survey people’s opinions about whether the original Māori place names should be reinstated.
  • Students will brainstorm coming up with open and closed questions.
  • Identify the groups that may have an interest in the discussion: Māori, non-Māori, local government councillors, Members of Parliament, young and old.

Lesson five

  • Students will collate the information they have gathered into a bar graph.
  • Based on the information gathered, students will write a report of their own thoughts on this topic and justify their opinions.
  • Students will present one example supporting the topic and an example opposing the topic.

Lesson six

  • Collaboratively, students will formulate specific questions to ask either a councillor, MP, or local kaumatua (elder).
  • Students will invite either their local councillor, MP, or elder to school, to discuss and clarify the issues surrounding the reinstatement of Māori place names.
  • Students will investigate the legal processes for reinstating Māori place names.
  • Students will decide what action to take and, in particular, action suitable to the community view.