Our name: Te Tumu Herenga

Te Tumu Herenga, the name gifted by the University's former kuia Dr Merimeri Penfold, means 'the chief tethering post'; when referring to a person it means a 'high-ranking leader'.

Its poetic meaning refers to the waka, or vessels, for which it is the main binding point, the unmovable mainstay to which they are tethered. To native Māori speakers there is a very strong association between 'herenga' (bond) and 'waka'. The word 'tumu' emphasises the main binding point, the strength of that bond, and its chiefly status.

Waka can contain very precious things, and very mundane things as well, reflecting the wide range of information libraries contain. Waka are inherently linked to people on their different journeys. The vessel concept in essence captures many worlds, ancient, modern, in all disciplines, and the link, Te Tumu Herenga, to those worlds is Libraries and Learning Services.

Dr Robert Sullivan, former Library Manager – Māori Services, wrote the following poem for Dr Merimeri Penfold, in thanks for her giving us the name Te Tumu Herenga.

Te Tumu Herenga

For Merimeri Penfold

We spoke of the talking mountains of this place.

We cast our minds like tui across the green yellow blue

of the land of a hundred lovers.

The tui on the mountaintop kept returning.


We need that tui we thought.

We want to talk to mountains like the people here.

We rested and we built. We carved and we thought.

Spirals and paua eyes bound into consciousness.


The waka took shape, and we took them out.

Beyond Waipapa. Past Te Rerenga Wairua. Fast

as concorde taniwha. Noisy! We filled our waka

with memories. Brilliant, sweet, dull, sour.


To the brim. Our waka was full.

Filled by the memories of the people and places

touched by all the oceans this waka touched.

Our Library waka. Our research waka.


We rested, upon the taonga of memory.

And then our taonga, the name arrived. A mainstay,

our waka are tied to it today. TE TUMU HERENGA

The tethering post of chiefs, and much food for talk.

Robert Sullivan, December 2006