Honouring A Māori Brand Name

20 Jul 2022

As we become a more inclusive and culturally mature country, many of our national institutions are using a te reo Māori name. But with Oranga Tamariki being severely challenged for not living up to their name, here are three essential principles to receiving and honouring a Māori name.

A Name Is A Heritage and a Responsibility

I am a descendant of Ngāti Porou, named after our ancestor, Porourangi.

His full name is Porou Ariki Te Mātātara-a-Whare Te Tuhi Mareikura-a-Rauru, which means “the first born son of a tapu line” and the “dawn breaking blood red”, after the red dawn that appeared on the morning he was born. It connects Porourangi with his whakapapa back to his distant homeland in Hawaiiki. Further his name denotes his future as a leader, endowed with tapu and mana. His name therefore denotes a heritage and a responsibility.

Māori customs define a unique process for gifting a name to a new born child. Parents do not just choose a name out of an index of popular names. Instead, it is deliberated for some time. The child is observed, to discover talents and characteristics and wānanga are held with elders, to be sure that the name bestowed is appropriate. But also, there is a commitment on the whānau to help the child to be raised to fulfil the stature of the name. Honouring the name is a communal responsibility.

In this sense a name is a narrative that reveals values, hopes, aspirations, binding the recipient and community together in a purposeful relationhip. Therefore, a name holds considerable mana in te ao Māori.

Names denote purpose and new names denote transitions in a life journey.

Māori perspectives therefore are unique in the sense that a name is not purchased or owned, it is honoured. Further, that names have communal value, weaving people together in reciprocal responsibilities. Names also change. And when circumstances require, names can be taken back.

How To Receive & Honour A Māori Name

Fly had the privilege of working with a newly formed government agency to create their brand name and identity. We were commencing our work with them as Oranga Tamariki was being hammered in the press. Māori communities were speaking up about Oranga Tamariki polices being bad for Māori and in that sense, they were not living up to the name they had been gifted.

So it was with some consternation that this new government agency commenced the process to receiving a Māori name.

The Cancer Control Agency was gifted the name Te Aho o Te Kahu by representatives of the Māori community at the Beehive on 18th of June 2020. The name refers to the process of weaving a cloak, a kahu. The aho is the central thread that binds all strands of the kahu together. It represents the leadership role Te Aho o Te Kahu has in improving cancer prevention and care in New Zealand. But three principles emerge as key to receiving an honouring a Māori name.

1. Partnership

The process towards a Māori name began with genuine engagement with the Māori community to understand their hopes and expectations from the newly formed agency. This was not a move towards branding, but towards creating an organisation that genuinely valued Māori voices and established relationships with Māori at the highest level of the organisation. A partnership with Hei Āhuru Mōwai Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa was established early to provide expert advice in matters important to Māori.

Just as a child receives a name with the shared commitment of the whānau, Māori community leaders made a firm commitment to not only gift the name, but to continue to provide on going support to assist Te Aho o Te Kahu in fulfilling their mandate. This partnership is the foundation for honouring the name.

2. Protection

Te Aho o Te Kahu worked with Māori and non-Māori communities and the health sector to understand their needs and how to define an organisational direction that would fulfil the true intent of their name.

Four key values were identified that would ensure that Te Aho o Te Kahu honoured their name:

  • Equity Led (Mana Taurite)
    Fighting for equity, as Māori are the most affected by health inequities in New Zealand.
  • People & Whānau centred (Mana Tāngata}
    Being whānau centred and recognising the whānau as a central thread in a Māori model of health.
  • Knowledge Driven (Whai Māramatanga)
    Empowering diverse knowledge sources and contexts, not just mainstream paradigms.
  • Outcomes Focussed (Kia Angitū)
    Being outcomes focussed, bravely ensuring lasting solutions effect real change.

These values form the protective framework that will guide Te Aho o Te Kahu to be authentic to their purpose.

3. Participation

The recruitment of a diverse and talented leadership team, that ensured Māori voices are heard at the leadership table was a beautiful experience. Having Māori voices valued, whether it be through karakia, waiata, mihi or diverse opinions and expertise.


The organisation is young, only 1 year old in November 2020. But in the first year of it’s life, the focus has been on a genuine process of partnership, protection and participation with Māori stakeholders. These three principles are held in many Te Tiriti o Waitangi frameworks. So it was good to see them in action in a meaningful way.


- Karakia, Te Aho o Te Kahu