The name Omāroro was gifted to the project by local iwi Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika (Taranaki Whānui) and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Incorporated (Toa Rangatira).
The area has strong associations for iwi, close to what were major Māori cultivation sites at Puke Ahu (Mount Cook) and Moera (Te Aro Valley), that supplied to the ancient Te Akatarewa Pa above where the Basin Reserve is now located and later Te Aro Pa at the harbour end of what is now Taranaki Street.
The area would have been significantly wooded and used for hunting and gathering.
Close by was the Te Atiawa village of Moera or Moe-i te Ra near Central Park. There were no known villages, burial ground or gardens on this particular site, however a stream that flowed into the Matapihi Stream has its origins in this part of the Town Belt.
Although there are no Māori sites of significant on Prince of Wales Park where Omāroro will be constructed, this site it is close to many places of significance for the mana whenua. The construction of the water reservoir is unlikely to unearth any Māori cultural however with an accidental discovery process in place if such material is found then it can be dealt with.
The need for additional bulk water storage for Wellington’s growing central business district and lower lying suburbs was first identified in the 1970s.
Over the years a range of different projects have been proposed but financing and the challenge of finding a location have been big barriers.
However, the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes turned the city’s strategic focus to building disaster resilience. The 2016 Kaikoura quakes escalated the proposed Omāroro project to urgent priority as a major part of the long-term strategy to improve water resilience around the region.