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Either after Oxford in England, in particular Oxford University, or, more probably, after Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, who was a member of the Canterbury Association.
Maori name of Oxford: Tawera: lit, burnt or scorched; of the morning star, Venus. Oxford Forest was earlier called Harewood Forest by Captain Thomas, after the Earl of Harewood.
Source: The Reed Dictionary of New Zealand Place Names, 2002 via. Waimakariri Place Names and Statistics