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No. 53 (December 1965)
– 49 –

How Ruatoria
Got Its Name

There was once a Maori woman called Torea who owned a pit in which she kept young kumara plants. Her pit, now vanished, was situated opposite the Ruatoria school bus depot. Her fame as a grower of young plants was known throughout the district and because of the great demand for them, she became cunning and greedy.

One day a chief of high rank came to her and asked for some plants. Thinking that the chief would not pay. Torea gave him only one plant. But when she saw that he was about to give her his weapon in payment, she changed her attitude and told him that there were more if he wanted them.

The chief was wise, however, and he had seen through the woman's wickedness. He told her that he would nurse the one plant that she had given him, and would grow his own shoots for the next season.

When Sir Apirana Ngata, an outstanding Maori politician, heard the story of Torea and the chief, he referred to her pit as a post office, the reason being that when the chief gave her payment, it was like handing money into her pit for safe-keeping. So when the post office was built, Sir Apirana called it ‘Te Rua o Torea’ or ‘The Pit of Torea’.

Later the name was changed to Ruatoria, and as the little township grew and modern facilities were established, this name came to be used to refer to the whole district.