The first school in Okaihau was established in 1873 in an old log hut. However the dampness in the hut was bad for the children’s’ health so the school shifted to the house of the teacher – Mr Joseph Harrison. In 1874 the first proper school building was opened and there were 21 children on the roll.
In those days, meat and butter came from Australia, the butter surviving the journey a lot better than the meat! Of course back then there was no road to Kaikohe or even further north to Mangamuka.
Gum diggers arrived in the area in 1890 and school children could find them around the shores of Lake Omapere and, if they were lucky, they might get a piece of gum in the shape of a ball or a heart from the gum diggers. Children, as they grew up, could make money crosscutting in the kauri bush to get kauri gum.
Okaihau got really busy in the 1910s and 1920s when the town was the headquarters for the Public Works Department who were tasked with building the railway line north. Schools sprang up in different places around Okaihau. There were two “Public Works” schools – Okaihau East School and Upper Waihou School. The original register is still held at our school. Teachers used fountain pens. We also have an original ink blotter advertising “Shell Oil”. Students walked to school or came on horses.
See if you can find Room R5. This is the original old school building which was based at Mr Harrison’s house and was built in 1974. It was shifted by bulllock to it’s current site during the 20th century. The classroom is made of pit sawn kauri, and is still used today.
It was decided in 1937 to join all the small local schools together and make one big “consolidated” school. The old part of our college today, “L” Block was opened as “a brand new modern school for country children in the north” in 1938. There were 93 boys and 87 girls. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that electricity arrived! By 1940 there were 57 secondary students (Year 9 to Year 12).
The Centennial of the “Okaihau and Districts” Schools was held in 1974. You can find the plaque on the administration block, where you will see that our school was officially opened as a college on 7 July 1973. This was 100 years after the first school started in Okaihau.
Today we have around 460 students from Year 7 to 13 who travel to school in buses from as far away as Kohukohu and Waima.