Kiwiosities: Goat and Rabbit Islands

Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.

New Zealanders are prone to giving trite and unimaginative names to their landmarks. Maori on the other hand used much poetry and polysyllable which has meant that many of their names have slipped from common knowledge over the years.

The lack of originality in the naming of Goat Island is actually replicated within a few kilometres off the Rodney Coast at the Marine Laboratory near Leigh and in the Kawau Bay just to the south.

Rabbit Island crops up next to Goat Island (formerly Takangaroa) in the Mayne Islands near Kawau, and again off Opoutere Beach, Coromandel, formerly in Lake Wanaka (now Crescent Island), and again off Nelson. For that matter, Rabbit’s neighbour off Coromandel is called Slipper, as is another similarly shaped island off the Rodney Coast not too far from Rabbit Island there. An initiative from the New Zealand Geographic Board to reinvest some of the original Maori names not only brings back some of the past; it could also make navigation easier.

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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand's historic and natural heritage.