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Name change for Mackinnon Pass proposed

Mackinnon Pass may soon be known as Ōmanui/McKinnon Pass. Photo: Teri Urwin

One of the Milford Track’s most iconic features may be renamed in a bid to correct a century old spelling mistake and to reinstate its Māori name.

The New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) is calling for submissions on a proposal to change the spelling of Mackinnon Pass, the highest point on the Milford Track, to McKinnon, and to include the Māori name for the pass, Ōmanui, in its official name.

The NZGB said the pass, as well as Fiordland’s Lake Mackinnon, were named after 19th century explorer Quintin McPherson McKinnon and the spelling is a mistake which should be corrected.

According to government encyclopedia Te Ara, the Scottsman was the first European to discover the Milford Track route in 1888, along with Manapouri explorer E. Mitchell. McKinnon then began guiding tourist parties on the track to Milford Sound over the next three years and won a government contract in 1892 to do a mail run on the track, delivering letters between Te Anau and Milford Sound. He died in 1892 after his boat was wrecked crossing Lake Te Anau on a trip to Milford. His body was never found. Quintin Lodge and Saint Quintin Falls on the Milford Track are also named after the explorer.

The NZGB said iwi did not advise an original Māori name for Lake Mackinnon, which is proposed to be called Lake McKinnon.

The NZGB said the original Māori name for the pass is Ōmanui and local iwi have requested it be included as a dual name of Ōmanui/McKinnon Pass.

“​​The inclusion of Ōmanui, which may mean ‘the great running’ or ‘the great escape’, was suggested by Te Rūnunga o Ngāi Tahu and recognises first discovery by Māori,” the Board said.

The board is also consulting on changing the positions of four peak names and one pass name in the Darran Mountains and changing the spelling of two peaks.

Submissions are open until November 30, with details at Linz.govt.nz.