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City Rail Link media release: TBM Whina

  • Posted on: 05, 06, 2020
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“Remarkable” Dame Whina Cooper wins CRL vote


City Rail Link’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) will share the name of one of New Zealand’s most inspirational leaders, Dame Whina Cooper, a woman who spent most of an illustrious life leading the fight for social justice and land rights for Māori.

Dame Whina Cooper’s name topped a nationwide poll ahead of internationally recognised Antarctic scientist, Dr Margaret Bradshaw, and the world’s first elected openly transgender mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer.

“The project is both proud and honoured that our TBM will carry the name of a woman of such mana – Dame Whina Cooper,” said City Rail Link Ltd’s Chief Executive, Dr Sean Sweeney.   “We were looking for the name of a New Zealand woman who inspired – brave, compassionate and fearless – and all those outstanding leadership qualities are well and truly represented by the very remarkable Dame Whina Cooper.”

Dame Whina’s family welcomes their mother’s new association with a project that will bring huge changes to the Auckland she had called her home for many years.

“Mum was very much a people person,” says Dame Whina’s daughter Hinerangi Puru Cooper. “She had so much energy and was heavily involved in community projects across Auckland. But to us she was just mum.”

Dame Whina was born in 1895 at Panguru, Northland, and died in 1994.  She began her  first campaigns for Māori as a teenager before moving to Auckland in 1949 where she was identified as one of the “100 Makers of Auckland” in a book featuring influential people who helped develop the city.

Dame Whina was the first president of the Māori Women’s Welfare League and played a significant role in improving Māori living conditions across New Zealand.

In 1975 aged 80, she led a land rights march from the Far North to Parliament. She was made a Dame in 1981 and was awarded the country’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand,  in 1991.

Dame Whina, Dr Bradshaw and Ms Beyer were the shortlisted finalists selected from more than 300 women’s names nominated by New Zealanders.   Around 3,500 participated in the competition with Dame Whina Cooper securing  just under 50 per cent of the final total vote.

“I am grateful to all New Zealanders for their support and their nominations and votes, particularly at a time when we were all grappling with a pandemic.  I would also like to thank

Dr Bradshaw and Ms Beyer for allowing their names to be considered for our TBM.” Dr Sweeney said.

Tradition dictates that a TBM must have a woman’s name – a sign of good luck and safety for the project ahead and an acknowledgement to Saint Barbara, the patron saint of those who work underground.

CRL’s TBM is due to arrive in kitset sections from China in October.  It will be reassembled at the Link Alliance project site at Mt Eden.  The newly named Dame Whina Cooper TBM will be blessed before the Link Alliance starts the first of two 1.6-kilometre underground excavations from Mt Eden to the Aotea Station in the central city to connect with the twin tunnels already built from Britomart Station and under Albert Street.

More information about CRL and the re-start can be found at https://www.cityraillink.co.nz/.

Ngā mihi,


Ewart Barnsley

Media Manager

City Rail Link Ltd  | Level 2, 25 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland 1023
PO Box 9681, Newmarket, Auckland 1149, New Zealand

M +64 27 275 6868  | E  ewart.barnsley@cityraillink.govt.nz



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