Tasman Education Timeline


Education in Tasman  

The Nelson Province played an important role in the history of New Zealand education. It was the first Province to initiate free public education, based on Matthew Campbell's secular school system, which became the model for the country. Wakefield School is the oldest continuous public school in New Zealand, but there have been many other schools in the area now known as the Tasman District. Many of these schools were created to educate the children of workers in growing industries. This includes Aporo School/Tasman School which was established to educate children whose parents moved into the area to work in the apple industry. Because of this the following timeline doesn't just show us the history of education in Tasman, but the growth of the region and its industries.

A Timeline of Tasman Schools


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  • Mary Ann Baigent sets up a household school at her home, this is the start of Wakefield School. On 8 October 1843 the school moves to a cob cottage belonging to Mr Wilkinson. The cottage is located just below St Johns ChurchMr Wilkinson is the first schoolmaster. 


  • January 1: An official opening ceremony is held for the Wakefield Branch School. Wakefield School is the oldest continuous public school in New Zealand. 

Photo of the old Spring Grove School.

Spring Grove School building. Photograph from Tasman Heritage.


  • May 18: Spring Grove School opens. 


  • February 16: The Nelson School Society opens Richmond School on the corner of Salisbury Road and Main Street, (now Queen Street) Richmond. 

  • The Nelson School Society also opens the first Waimea West School.  


  • The Lutheran's open Ranzau School in Waimea East. 

  • Riwaka School opens. 

  • Waimea West School is founded by the Reverend F. H. Butt. A boarding school for the students opens the following year.


  • The Nelson School Society opens "Hope School" in Waimea East. 

  • Five Māori boys and five Māori girls are enrolled alongside European children in the district school at Motueka.


  • An evening class for Māori adults is established in Motueka, with 37 men initially attending. Classes included English language, writing and arithmetic.



  • River Terrace School opens in Brightwater. 

    River Terrace School c1912

    Pupils at River Terrace School. 1912. Photograph from Tasman Heritage.


  • July: The Nelson Education Act of 1856 is passed, based on Matthew Campbell's school system. The Act made the Nelson Province the first in New Zealand to have public schools at which no fees are charged - a Central Board is established to run them. The schools are to be funded through taxation and public revenue. 

  • October 8th: Richmond Primary School opens. Attendance is compulsory for both girls and boys. 

  • Pangatōtara School was listed as being under the auspices of the Provincial Government. It may have been open for longer as a household or independent school.1 


  • Richmond Primary School's present site is purchased for 50 pounds. 

  • A School opens in the home of Pastor Heine in Sarau. It later becomes Upper Moutere School 

  • Motueka Primary School opens in Motueka (it becomes Parklands School in 1956). 

  • Wai-iti School (formerly Upper Wakefield School) opens. 


  • The second Waimea West School opens. 

    A class photograph of Foxhill School children and teachers 1913

    Foxhill School pupils and teachers in 1913. Photograph from Tasman Heritage.


  • Schools are established in Appleby and Collingwood 

  • Motupipi School in Golden Bay/Mohua opens. It is the first school established in the Tākaka district.


  • Lower Tākaka School opens.


  • Foxhill School opens. 


  • The Lower Moutere Public School is established. 

  • The Tākaka District High School (later Golden Bay High Schoolis established. 


  • Eighty-Eight Valley School opens near Wakefield. 

    Brightwater School in the early 1890s

    Brightwater School's brick building, about 1890.


  • Long Plain School in Golden Bay/Mohua opens. The name is changed to Kotinga School in 1919.


  • Ngatimoti School opens, in fairly rough premises, with 18 children. 2 

  • The first Motupiko School opens. This was the first school to be established on the west side of the Spooners Range. The school was moved to a new site in 1877. The school merged with Tapawera Consolidated School in 1942. 


  • The 'old' Dovedale School opens. It is later demolished in 1969. In 1938 the old school is replaced by the present Dovedale School 


  • East Tākaka School is established 


  • Motueka Valley School opens. It is renamed Tapawera School in 1907. 


    Stanley Brook School pupils 1916. Photo from Tasman Heritage.


  • New Zealand Education Act passed (modelled on the Nelson education system). 


  • Tadmor School opens. 


  • The first Rockville School in the Aorere Valley opens as more settlers move into the area for gold mining activities.


  • Stanley Brook School opens. 

  • The first school in the Murchison District opens at Fern Flat.


  • A new school for girls and junior boys is established in Brightwater and is called Brightwater School. Mrs Bryant is the Head Mistress. 

  • Baton Valley School opens. The school later closed on 1st January 1928. 

    Brightwater School for girls

    Brightwater's school for girls in Ellis Street, Brightwater. Photograph from the Nelson Provincial Museum. Ref. 37330.

  • Sherry River School opens. 


  • Woodstock School opens.3 

  • Waingaro (Hamama) School in Golden Bay opens.


  • Pokororo School opens.4 

  • The first Murchison School opens in the front room of a bakery. Rait’s Hall is later used until a school room is built by Alexander Sutherland in 1895. The school is officially known as Murchison School from 1884. A more modern school opens on the 3rd of March 1947.

  • Upper Tākaka School opens.


  • Upper Motupiko School (later known as Korere School) opens. 

  • The Six Mile School in the Murchison District opens.


  • Bainham School in Golden Bay/Mohua opens.


  • The Redwood’s Valley School opens at the foot of the Moutere Hill. It functions as a branch school to take the overflow of students from nearby Appleby School and continues under Appleby’s administration until 1923. In 1931, a new Education Board school is built further up the Moutere Hill, opposite Maisey Road.
  • Sunnyside (West Tākaka School) is first established by the Sparrow family who build a schoolroom on their land.


  • Pigeon Valley School opens. 

  • Gordon School opens near the junction of Eighty-Eight Valley and Wai-iti Valley. 

  • October: A new school for boys is officially opened in Brightwater. Thomas Warnock is the first principal. 


  • Brightwater School (for girls) closes, and pupils move to the Boy's School which becomes the new combined Brightwater School. 


  • Wangapeka School opens. 


  • Wairoa Valley School (also referred to as Garden Valley or The Valley School) opens. 


  • Orinoco School opens.5 


  • Central Tākaka School is established.


  • Upper Tadmor School (later known as Kiwi School) opens. 


  • Kaituna School in the Aorere Valley, Golden Bay/Mohua opens. The name is changed to Aorere School in 1934.


  • The site of Salisbury School in Richmond is used as a boy's school - and used continuously for children with special needs for the next century. 

  • Golden Downs School opens.  

  • Richmond Girls' School is combined with Richmond Boys' School to form Richmond School. 


  • Uruwhenua school in Upper Tākaka opens.


  • Matariki School opens. Officially known as Wangapeka School, with the name Matariki School being adopted in 1912. 


  • Tākaka High School (Golden Bay High School) opens.


  • Wairoa Valley School closes and the children are transferred to River Terrace School. 


  • Pangatōtara School closes. 


  • Tui School opens. 


  • Tophouse School opens. It is the only public building within a twenty-mile radius (about 32km).



  • Richmond Special School for Girls (later Salisbury School for Girls) opens on Salisbury Road, Richmond. 


  • River Terrace School in Brightwater closes. 

  • Wairoa Gorge School opens a short distance up the Wairora Gorge Road. 


  • The present Upper Moutere School is built. The original classroom is towed by traction engine to the current site. It is thought to be the oldest classroom still in use in New Zealand. 

  • Eighty-Eight Valley School closes and the remaining pupils attend Koreke, a household school at Mrs Lukey's home. 

  • June 17: several school buildings in Tasman, including the brick Brightwater School and Spring Grove School buildings are damaged during the Murchison earthquake 


  • Koreke School is consolidated (merged) with Wakefield School at the end of 1930. 

  • The Tākaka Hill School opens in a small tin shack located on Jim and Hilary Henderson’s Kairuru farm.  The school is shifted to a more substantial corrugated iron building near the Canaan turnoff in 1935.


  • Brightwater School's new wooden building is finished. The brick building had been damaged in the Murchison earthquake and was unsafe for pupils. 


  • Uruwhenua School in Upper Tākaka closes.


  • Wai-iti School (formerly Upper Wakefield School) closes and is consolidated (merged) with Wakefield School. 

  • Waimea West School closes and is consolidated with Brightwater School. 

  • Wangapeka School closes. 


  • Stanley Brook School closes. 

  • Pokororo School closes and is consolidated with Ngatimoti School. 


  • 29th of May - Tapawera Consolidated High School officially opens with a roll of 175 students. The new primary school with a secondary school department combines, or consolidates, nine smaller schools on one site. The nine schools include: Tapawera, Golden Downs, Korere (formerly Upper Motupiko School), Motupiko, Sherry River, Kiwi (formerly upper Tadmor School), Tadmor, Matariki and Stanley Brook. The new school includes a dental clinic, woodwork and cooking facilities for students. 

  • Tui School joins the new Tapawera Consolidated High School. 

  • Woodstock School closes. 


  • Gordon School closes and the remaining pupils are transferred to Foxhill School. 

  • Totara Bush Household School closes. 


  • Wairoa Gorge School closes and children are transported each school day to Brightwater School. 


  • Pigeon Valley School officially closes. The school's pupils had been transported to Wakefield School from late 1949, due to the teacher being unwell. 


  • The Woodsman Training School at Golden Downs is established by the Forestry Service. The entrants are mainly 15- or 16-year-olds and they are accommodated in hostels on site. They learnt standard forestry skills, firefighting, and the use of forestry equipment and vehicles.


  • Motueka District High School opens in Whakarewa Street, Motueka. 


    The old Motueka High School building in High Street. Photograph by F N Jones. Photograph from Tasman Heritage.


  • Aorere School in the Aorere Valley, Golden Bay/Mohua closes.



  • Kotinga School in Golden Bay/Mohua closes.



  • The Redwood’s Valley School closes, due to the roll dropping to eight students.


  • November 28th: Henley School opens. Its name is decided by public vote, following a "name the school" competition. Henley was the name given to the area by one of the early settlers who came from Henley on Thames, England. 



  • Bainham School in Golden Bay/Mohua closes. Pupils are transported to Rockville School.


  • Spring Grove School closes and the children are given the choice of attending either Brightwater or Wakefield Schools. 


  • In early 1975 Tapawera Area School is created; it is one of the first schools in New Zealand to become an Area School under new education reforms.  


  • Richmond te kōhanga starts in the Richmond Presbyterian church building.
  • Kōhanga Reo at Te Āwhina Marae, Motueka opens. 


  • Mountain Valley School opens to serve the children in the Graham Valley community. 

  • Nelson Polytechnic opens its new campus in Salisbury Road, Richmond.


  • Nelson Polytechnic opens a campus in Motueka. The campus closes in 1993.


  • The Richmond Campus of Nelson Polytechnic moves to a new site in Lower Queen Street, Richmond. The campus is used for training in forestry, horticulture and other primary industries. In 2006 the campus closes, and the site is leased to another education provider.


  • October: Nelson Aviation College is officially opened in Queen Victoria Street, Motueka. It includes accommodation facilities for students, many of whom are Japanese. The college first opened in 1978 in a 'tiny wee shed' in College Street, Motueka.


  • January 27: Saint Paul's Catholic Primary School opens on Salisbury Road, Richmond. 


  • February 23: Garin College in Champion Road, Stoke, is blessed and officially opened. The college is named after Nelson's first Parish Priest who established schools in his time. 

  • July: Motueka Rudolf Steiner School (Primary school) opens. 


  • February: The Ministry of Education confirms Ranzau School will be moving to a new 3ha site in the Berryfields subdivision, Richmond West.
  • May: A new joint learning hub opens on the grounds of Salisbury School. The hub offers education support services for students with behavioural issues, hearing and vision impairments.
  • June: the government announces funding to move Nelson's Maitai School to the Salisbury School grounds, and also funding for the long-awaited renovation of Salisbury School.

This story is based on a timeline originally drafted by Joy Stephens in 2002 for the Nelson Provincial Museum. 

Last updated July 2024.

Sources used in this story

  1. Ngatimoti School 150th Celebrations 1868-2018 (2018), p. 54. Booklet downloaded from Ngatimoti School website, August 2021:
  2. Ngatimoti Schoolp.41.
  3. Ngatimoti School, p.49.
  4. Ngatimoti School, p.53.
  5. Ngatimoti School, p.51.

Many other books and articles were used to create this timeline, these are listed in the resources below.

Want to find out more about the Tasman Education Timeline ? View Further Sources here.

Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.

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Further sources - Tasman Education Timeline



Specific Schools




  • Year 13 Computer Studies students. (2005).Motueka High School golden jubilee : slide shows, 1955-1960, 1961-1970, 1971-1980, 1981-1990, 1991-2005 . Motueka, New Zealand: Motueka High School. [held Tasman District Library].

Podcasts and Audio recordings

Web Resources