Friday 14 June 2024

Tauranga School

Tauranga School, c. 1890-1892
Carte de visite format albumen print by Stewart Bros., Tauranga
Collection of Tauranga City Libraries, Pae Korok
ī Ref. 04-502

Tauranga School was first established as a Missionary School in 1835, on the site where the Elms now stands, as part of the missionary plan to educate young Maori. Soon after her arrival at Te Papa in August of that year, Sarah Wade, the wife of Reverend William Wade, started her school with 30 female students.

Tauranga School, c. 1905
Black-and white silver gelatin print, by unidentified photographer
Collection of Tauranga City Libraries, Pae Korok
ī Ref. 04-493

By 1860 a two-storied gable building, with a belfry designed by Bishop Selwyn, was opened. This was to become a Mission Training Institute for sixty young Maori children. Owing to the conflict between Maori and Europeans, this closed in 1863 and was used as a hospital during the Gate Pa battles, eventually reopening as a school around 1866, with Mrs Dalziell as the teacher and fifty pupils on the roll. Not on a salary, in those days the teacher had to charge fees. When the Central Education Board took over the operation of the school in 1871 Mrs Dalziell was paid forty pounds a year with the community expected to match this.

In 1872 the school was moved onto land bounded by St John Street, Tenth Avenue and Edgecumbe Road, and officially opened on December 14th as the Opepe Memorial and District School, known as No. 1 School. A soiree which appears to have consisted of a substantial tea followed by a concert was held. Those responsible for the function proudly announced that they had a proper road laid out to the school from Cameron Road, opposite Mr. Darby’s house.

Tauranga School, c. 1909-1913
Silver gelatin postcard print, photographed by R.W. Meers, Tauranga
Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0251/09

In 1873 the School Committee recommended that the Tauranga School district was to be comprised of the area within a radius of three miles from the school house. The Education Act 1877 established free, compulsory education for all Pakeha New Zealand children. Maori children could attend these schools if their parents wanted them to. Primary school education was made compulsory for Maori children in 1894.

In March 1878 a donation of seven pounds was made by the Dramatic Club and used to erect three substantial swings for the boys and girls. It was also decided that a competitive examination should be held at the end of the year, with prizes to be given at the annual festival. A magnificent copy of the Life of David Livingstone was also to be presented to the pupil most deserving of a reward for good conduct and proficiency. Under the new Education Act, provision was to be made for singing and drawing lessons. In order to obtain a library the school needed to raise fifty pounds and the government would supplement the grant with another fifty pounds. In June 1880 the Board of Education granted a sum of fifteen pounds for planting, repairing and painting.


Tauranga District High School, c. 1913-1915
Silver gelatin postcard print, photographed by W.T. Wilson, Auckland
Collection of Justine Neal

It was a long walk for small children from the more populated northern area of the town, so in 1880 the School Committee pressed for a second school at the Harington Street/Cameron Road corner – No. 2 School. After much heated discussion throughout the town, which included the resignation of the whole committee, their wish was granted, and by 1886 Tauranga had two schools.

By 1896, rather than do the extensive renovations needed on the No. 1 School, the committee suggested that it be demolished and that the No. 2 School be moved from Harington Street to a central site and enlarged. On March 13 1899 the Bay of Plenty Times ran an advertisement saying tenders were required for a post and wire fence around the boundaries of the Tauranga School Reserve, and for the erection of a shelter shed on the Tauranga School grounds.

The site of No. 2 School, Cameron Road, Tauranga, undated
Unmounted silver gelatin print (68 x 90mm) by an unidentified photographer
Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0449/08

It took eight years but eventually the No. 2 School replaced the No.1 School at Tenth Avenue. One more move six years later saw the much travelled school settled on the site where Tauranga Primary School stands today. At the time of all the moves Cameron Road was shell-paved and hilly. Bullock teams took weeks to move the tall buildings on huge drays with wooden wheels and axles. The original school provided seven classrooms, two large enclosed porches, headmaster’s study and staffroom. Children were taught up to primer seven. Secondary education was not provided until 1907 when District High School status was conferred on the school.


A Centennial History of Tauranga, by W.H. Gifford and H. Bradney Williams, publ. 1940

Tauranga 1882- 1982, edited by A.C. Bellamy, publ. 1982

Brown and the Elms, by C.W. Vennell, publ. 1984

Tauranga School Centennial, 1871- 1971, publ. 1971

Papers Past

Tauranga Primary School Website

Tauranga City Libraries, Pae Koroki

Tauranga Heritage Collection