engaving of te aro flat around 1847

View from the top of The Terrace looking down over Te Aro flat around the mid-1840s. Mount Victoria can be seen in the distance on the left and Pukeahu is centre-right.
Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference: A-449-012. Engraving by Samuel Brees.

The two names of this hill: Pukeahu and Mount Cook, reflect its rich history. Māori have had a long association with Pukeahu, from pre-historic times until the present day. European settlers, recognising its prominent position, began using and changing the hill from 1840.

What does Pukeahu mean?

In the Māori language ‘puke’ means hill, and ‘ahu’ is an altar or stone platform, or the central stone of a marae. So Pukeahu (sometimes spelt ‘Puke Ahu’) suggests the idea of a ‘sacred hill’ – a sacred place to perform rituals. We know the name Pukeahu was given to this hill by the Ngāi Tara iwi (tribe). However, there is no record of why they gave it that name.

Why Mount Cook?

With the arrival of European settlers, Pukeahu was renamed Mount Cook, after British explorer Captain James Cook, who first voyaged to New Zealand in 1769–70.

Next: Pukeahu in the Landscape

Updated on 12th April 2021