The origins of Rotorua Primary School can be traced back to a school established in 1868. The school, set up under the Native Schools Act of 1867, served the educational needs of local Maori and European children (Douglas, Hooper, Wilson, Urumao, Mako & Mako, 1990).
In 1886, another school was established at the Ohinemutu Comet store. This newly formed school came under the direction of the Auckland Education Board (Andrews, 1980). Once the “Board” school was established, it was expected that students would transfer from the original Native school to the new school. Two years later the transition from Native to Board school was complete.
In June 1887, the Board school relocated from the Comet store to the present school site in the heart of the Rotorua township (Douglas et al.,1994). This move was made possible through the generosity of the Ngati Whakaue people and the efforts of Rotohiko Haupapa.
Rotohiko Haupapa was born in Ohinemutu and was able to claim descent from the six hapu of Ngati Whakaue – Te Roro-o-te-rangi, Ngati Tunohopu, Te Rangi-i-waho, Ngati Pukaki, Ngati Taeotu and Ngati Te Hurunga- te-rangi (Curnow & Mitchell, 1990 ). Ngati Whakaue were the caretakers of the original Pukeroa Oruawhata Block, the land upon which the town was built. A rangatira (chief) of Ngati Tunohopu and a leader among the Ngati Whakaue people he is widely regarded as “the founder of Maori education in Rotorua” (Curnow & Mitchell, 1990; Tapsell, 1972).
A competent speaker of both Maori and English, Rotohiko Haupapa held a number of administrative and judicial positions, he was also very active in local affairs as chief administration officer of Te Komiti nui o Rotorua (Great Committee of Rotorua) and a member of the inaugural Rotorua Town Board (1883) ( Curnow & Mitchell, 1990 ; Rockel, 1980 ).
Rotohiko Haupapa worked hard to find an adequate site for a school that would service the whole district. This culminated in the donation of approximately three acres of land on Pukeroa hill in 1886. This land Te Wharau o Tahora Whakarua is where Rotorua Primary School is situated.
From the very beginning, the community has been instrumental in terms of the development of Te Kura o Pukeroa Oruawhata ( Rotorua Primary School ) :
The history of Rotorua Primary is not only a record of its development but is a colourful document of how a school has mirrored the expansion and growth of its community. From its humble beginnings in a raupo-urban floor hut of 1868 to its height in 1954, catering for nearly 1000 pupils, the school has reflected changes to which every growing settlement is subject. It was forced to expand in conjunction with the needs of the town until finally settling back to a more relaxed composure following the suburban developments of the mid fifties. It is a moving record of the co-operation between the Maori and early European settlers and testament to the vision of a few pioneering individuals whose ideals of education have continued to this day (Douglas et al., 1990).
Andrews, P. (1980). Education-tohungas, teachers and truants. In D.Stafford, R.Steele & J. Boyd (Eds.), Rotorua 1880 – 1980 (pp.87 -93). Rotorua : HA Holmes Print Centre & Rotorua and District Historical Society Inc.
Curnow, J & Mitchell, H. (1990).Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa. In Ministry forCulture and Heritage, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Volume One (1769 – 1869) . Wellington:Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Douglas, A., Hooper,M., Wilson, T., Uruamo, T., Mako, K., & Mako, I. (1994). Nga wawata o te whanau reo rua . Rotorua: Te Kura o Pukeroa Oruawhata.
Rockel, I. (1980). Cutting the cord- Government control of Rotorua. In D.Stafford,R.Steele & J.Boyd (Eds.), Rotorua 1880 – 1980 (pp.55 – 60). Rotorua : HA Holmes Print Centre & Rotorua and District Historical Society Inc.
Tapsell, E. (1972). A History of Rotorua . Wellington : Hutcheson, Bowman & Stewart Ltd.