The Catlins Place Name Report

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This report is also available in PDF The Catlins place name report (PDF 2.0MB).

  • The Catlins (formalising locally used name)
  • South-east extremity of the South Island.

27 March 2009 Place Name Proposal Report

General Background

The submitter is seeking to assign this commonly used local name to the area in the south-east extremity of the South Island, the extent of which includes the coastline between Nugget Point and Slope Point on the coast, and inland to include the catchments of rivers and streams that flow to the coast. The submitter has requested that the Board exercise its responsibility under Section 15(1)(a) of the New Zealand Geographic Board Act 2008, which gives jurisdiction to assign 'region' names.

The submitter provides supporting evidence that the place name 'The Catlins' came into common use around 1840 and has been in long term usage since that time. Included in the application is a summary by AR Tyrrell, author of Catlins Pioneering (1989) with a brief historical background of the area. Captain Edward Catlin (sometimes spelt Cattlin), who ran a supply ship to a whaling station in the area, made a land 'claim' for which he paid Tuhawaiki, Karetai and other Māori £92 5s in cash and goods prior to New Zealand being annexed by the Crown.

The submitter has provided documentary support for the proposal from the Catlins Promotions Group, Kaka Point Community Group, Clutha Agricultural Development Board and Tourism Catlins. Several of the supporting letters have indicated that there should be an adjustment to the proposed extent; however, any changes sought will be made through a separate proposal. The submitter has forwarded the proposed place name to Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou for consultation. No comments have yet been received as to whether an original Māori place name exists for the area. The views of Ngāi Tahu may be brought to the Board's meeting on 27 March 2009.

'The Catlins' uses both the definite article and possessive form. The Board's naming guideline discourages use of the possessive form; however, in the case of 'The Catlins' the euphony of the name would be destroyed by not using both the definite article and possessive form. The area is inclusive of the following, all of which are gazetted and under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation:

Conservation Park Conservation Park
Catlins Heads Recreation Reserve
Catlins Lake Scenic Reserve
Catlins Point-Elbow Scenic Reserve
Catlins River Scenic Reserve
Long Beach Scenic Reserve

The submitter proposes that 'The Catlins' will be applied generally to the area where the people of the region reside, and where tourists stay and move outside the park, the submitter does not seek to override official names for conservation areas.

A number of place names, streets and roads throughout New Zealand have the name 'Catlins', four of which are within the area:

Catlins Cone Beresford Range, south-east Southland
Catlins Heads South of the Nugget Point
Catlins Road Clutha District
Catlins Valley Road Clutha District
Catlins Crescent Palmerston North
Catlins Glen Porirua
Catlins Place North Shore

Topographic and cadastral maps have shown the following through the years:

NZMS 1, S178 Editions 1,2 & 3 dated 1944/1965/1975 Not named
NZMS 1, S179 Editions 1,2 & 3 dated 1945/1965/1975 Not named
NZMS 1, S183 Editions 1,2 & 3 dated 1944/1968/1976 Not named
NZMS 1, S184 Editions 1,2 & 3 dated 1945/1969/1977 Not named
NZMS 13, OTA 157 Dated 1944 Catlins Survey District

Some early survey plans show the following:

SO 304 Dated 1870 Catlins District
SO 8877 Dated 1876 Catlins
SO 305 Dated 1881 Catlins District
SO 309 Dated 1882 Catlins District
SO 306 Dated 1885 Catlins District
SO 1453 Dated 1894 Catlins
SO 308 Dated 1895 Catlins District

Early historical maps/plans show:

O(D)6 Dated 1865 Catlins Hundred
O(D)6A Dated 1865 Catlins Hundred
O(D)1 Dated 1866 Catlins
O(D)5 Dated 1866 Catlin's Hundred
O(D)23 Dated 1871 Catlins
GAZ27 Dated 1871 Catlins

The archive records of the Board (Canterbury National, Otago and NZGB card indices) record correspondence in 1985 (Vol. 13. pg. 265-267) enquiring as to the official boundaries of 'The Catlins'. The response concluded 'the Geographic Board has little information on the subject, apart from the record that Ratanui was once known as Catlin'.

16 September 2009 Place Name Summary Report

General Background

At its previous meeting of 27 March 2009, the Board noted that The Catlins is a commonly used local name for the area in the south-east extremity of the South Island. At the time the proposal was submitted to the Board, several of the supporting letters indicated that there should be an adjustment to the proposed extent.

The proposer advised that the question of boundaries had been considered, and with the support of the Catlins Historical Society, he remained committed to the boundaries as indicated in his initial proposal, which are based on historical origins and usage. The Board noted that any objections to the proposed boundary extent could be made by way of a submission once the proposal was notified. The Board noted that Ngāi Tahu had no issues with the proposal. The Board therefore accepted The Catlins as a proposal and proceeded to publicly notify for a three month period.

Submissions received following public notification resulted in eight objections to, and one in support of, the proposed boundary extent. All of the submissions received did not oppose the place name, The Catlins.

Objector Reasons for Objection Extent Preference
1. R Collins
16 May 2009
(within notification period)
  • At least eight small areas and settlements will be lost, making people most unhappy
  • Catlins already has its name on a river, lake, district and is seen on many buildings in Owaka.
  • Change is being pushed by tourist operators who have commercial and economic interests.
  • Encroaches on the 'Chaslands' at the south.
Boundary extent to start at Kaka Point and finish at Florence Hill.
2. Fergus Sutherland
24 May 2009
(within notification period)
  • Boundaries should be in line with the existing definition in the Catlins Tourism Strategy formalised in 2004, which received public support
  • Supports the name 'The Catlins'.
Boundary extent bounded on the coast by the Pacific Ocean, in the north by the mouth of the Clutha River/Matau, in the south by the mouth of the Mataura River, and extending inland to include all catchments between the rivers.
3. Shirley Clarke
1 June 2009
(within notification period)
  • The Catlins has never been in Southland, it has always been in South Otago.
Boundary extent of Romahopa, south of Balclutha, to the Chaslands area further south.
4. South Catlins
Promotions Inc.
13 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • The Department of Conservation literature defines the boundaries similarly to published tourism literature and the Catlins Tourism Strategy.
  • Setting the boundary at Slope Point would cut the South Catlins community in half.
  • Local organisations consider the South Catlins 'community of interest' to stretch from Fortrose/Waimahaka to the regional council boundary with Otago.
Boundary extent from the mouth of the Mataura River to the mouth of the Clutha River/Matau, including Mokoreta township and portions of the state forest parks known collectively as The Catlins State Forest Park.
5. Tourism Catlins
13 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • The preferred boundary was drawn with the assistance of, and supported by, the Department of Conservation – Southern Region and Te Ao Marama Inc, the consenting body for the southern tangata whenua.
  • The inclusion of the headwaters is very important to show respect to the tangata whenua.
  • Supports the name 'The Catlins'.
Bounded in the north by the Clutha River/Matau taking in Kaka Point, and bounded in the south by the Mataura River at Fortrose. The inland boundary to include all headwaters and catchments of rivers and streams in the area that flow to the coast, and includes the Crown Protected Area, the Catlins Conservation Park (map provided).
6. West Catlins
Preservation Inc.
13 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • Fully supports the boundary as defined by Tourism Catlins Trust submission (see above).
  • Supports the name 'The Catlins'.
Boundary extent as defined by Tourism Catlins Trust, incorporating the conservation areas and the headwaters of the Mokoreta and Tahakopa rivers (map provided).
7. Norman McRae
14 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • The boundary should be extended to include protected areas, and to maintain historical links, including a walking trail used by Māori travelling between Otakau and Tiwai.
Boundary extended to include the Slopedown Forest area.
8. Simon McRae
14 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • Numerous legal and surveyed maps and records specifically refer to Catlins Conservation Park being located in the Mokoreta/Redan area.
  • Extensive references in memoirs and the recollections of assorted writers that the Mokoreta/Redan area is in The Catlins.
  • Until recently when it was blown over, a 'Welcome to the Catlins' sign has been a constant fixture in the Mokoreta/Redan area for at least 47 years.
  • If the Mokoreta/Redan area can be more clearly associated with the 'Catlins brand', the easier and more likely it will be for promotional activities and ventures to gain traction.
  • Tourism Catlins confirmed that Mokoreta/Redan should be included in their draft plan.
Boundary extent from the coastline at the Kaou Branch of the Clutha River/Matua, extending inland and ending at Fortrose (map provided).
Supporter Reasons for Support Preference
Warren Smith
14 August 2009
(within notification period)
  • Any attempt to downsize the Catlins boundaries will benefit commercial operators, focused on profit, who are trying to limit tourism to the Southern Scenic Route.
Fully supports boundary as proposed.

The objecting submissions provide a preference that the boundary extent be altered, particularly from commercial tourism operators, who seek recognition of the current usage of The Catlins beyond its historical bounds. While concern was expressed by the one supporting submission about losing the identity of some small communities by being consumed within the wider boundaries, a statement was provided by Tourism Catlins Trust that having a defined boundary would be useful in protecting the integrity of, and would be of benefit to, the Catlins community as a whole.

Upholding the extended boundary definition, commonly submitted by Tourism Catlins Trust, West Catlins Preservation Inc and Simon McRae will not detract from the original extent made by the proposer. As a slightly wider area, it is not considered that it will affect the unique or individual characteristics of the local communities. The other objecting submissions provide limited details of the internal boundaries, providing only the northern and southern coastal markers. Some are within the original proposal boundaries and some are outside.

Refer to the marked up map with the original proposal and the definitions sought by the objecting submissions.


For a larger scale version of this map please refer to the pdf version of the The Catlins place name report (PDF 2.0MB).

This map shows the location of The Catlins locality with various boundary suggestions.


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