Auckland Point School


Auckland Point School Through the Decades 1927 - 2011

Auckland Point School was once one of the largest schools in Nelson, opening in 1927 with a roll call of four hundred children. 84 years on, there are just 52 students in attendance. Despite this, Auckland Point School is still renowned for providing an exceptional atmosphere for learning, which caters for the needs of every individual student. There is something special about this school, it has its own unique culture and characteristics, it embraces its rich heritage and this is reflected in every aspect of the school life.

Auckland Point School, c. 1925
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The school is located on the site of an ancient Māori pa, Matangi Awhio. Legend reveals a Māori presence in the area " far back as 850 AD."1 However, the first confirmed, named inhabitant was not until around 1450. Pohea was a descendant of Turi of the Aotea canoe, which arrived in New Zealand in the mid-fourteenth century from Hawaiki. His people built Matangi Awhio shortly after their arrival from Wanganui, and resided there for many hundreds of years. Evidence of this has been found in the school grounds, when in 1998 shards of ancient Māori digging tools were discovered.  Archaeologist Steve Bagley explained: "The school was built on a historical Māori site so finding it [the digging tool] was not totally unexpected."2

It was not until the arrival of European settlers that Matangi Awhio was renamed 'Auckland Point' after the ship 'Lord Auckland', which docked in the Nelson Haven in 1842. Throughout the 1800's Auckland Point was used as a central trading ground between the Māori and the Pakeha, and the early settlers depended on Māori produce to survive. Māori made use of the area often, as it was a fundamental part of communication between them and the Europeans, and was frequently used by Government officials as a meeting place with the local iwi. The area was used by Māori until as late as 1949, when several Māori venues being used as hospitals were closed down by the Health Department owing to poor conditions.

The need for a new school in the area was realised when it became apparent that the local Haven Road School was too small to accommodate the large numbers of children now living in the area, stemming from the surge of new businesses opening in the Nelson Haven in the early 1920's. In 1921 it was decided that a new school should be opened at Auckland Point, although it was several years before the school was built, due to legal ramifications in purchasing the site.  However, six years later, Auckland Point School was officially opened by the Minister of Education on 7 February 1927.

Auckland Point School, 1967. Nelson PhotoNews
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The school has changed with the world around it since its opening day in 1927. It is no longer the impressive brick building it once was, as the 1929 Murchison earthquake and the 1968 Ingangahua earthquake left doubts as to the safety of the building. An on-going battle to keep the old school building ensued, with countless inspectors analysing the building throughout the next ten years. Finally, after many years of debate, in 1972 the Nelson Education Board was told by the Ministry of Works that the school ‘...must be replaced by 1975 as it does not comply with [our current] earthquake resistant standards.'3 As a result, on 15 January 1974 Auckland Point School was demolished. All that remains of the old brick building is photographs, although the dome which was on top of the roof was saved and remains on the school grounds today.

The day to day school life has also changed through the years. Past pupil and current principal Sonya Hockley explained the change in the learning environment since her time as a pupil. '...the culture has changed...teachers are facilitators rather than lecturers...children are far more independent and we are encouraging them to be self-managing and resilient. There is a lot more freedom in terms of what children are able to do now and it's much more creative!' Auckland Point School classrooms in the old days were a far cry from modern times. The photos of classrooms from past times are the antithesis of modern classrooms. Entering a classroom today I feel welcomed. The walls are hidden behind brightly coloured posters and artwork of the children, and the colourful desks are arranged happily haphazardly, a contrast to the cold, spartan walls and desks strictly in rows from photos of the old days. Corporal punishment would have been the norm for anyone who misbehaved. Reading, writing and arithmetic dominated the curriculum. Lunchtimes were spending playing spinning tops and hopscotch, not Rippa Rugby or T-Ball, although some games like marbles and four-square are just as popular today as they were fifty years ago. Some things never change.

Auckland Point School, c. 1961. Nelson PhotoNews. 
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Auckland Point School has also had a significant impact on the surrounding community. The community is encouraged to use many of the school's resources, such as their swimming pool in summer and their pump track. '...we want the people to come in and use our things and have fun!' says Sonya Hockley. '[there is] a community feel in terms of a family feeling within our school.' The school's annual Gala also brings the locality together, and yearly productions are always well attended. The school also contributes to the city, and artworks of the students are often displayed among the daffodils on Haven Road. In 2004 and 2010 the pupils were the catalyst for the new paint job on the Moller Fountain. On both occasions, children in the year two class wrote letters to the mayor requesting that the fountain was looking dilapidated and needed a paint job. As a result within a couple of months the fountain was revamped. Elliot Cina, past pupil of Auckland Point School, recalls the experience. " and my class got to decide on the new colour scheme for the Moller Fountain - that was so cool, so cool to take part, to contribute to your community." 

A satellite class from Maitai School was established at Auckland Point in July 1998 for children with disabilities. This connection will soon be over as the class is moving to a specialised location next year, but the school is looking at other ways to contribute to the community, and a teen parent unit is in conception, where young mothers unable to attend high school will be able to further their education.

The school in 2011, with pump track
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Unfortunately the school roll has continued to decline since the Second World War, when the population was highly transient, and more recently as a result of Nelson's changing demographics. In the 1920's and 30's there were many jobs available at the port and the workers' families would live close by, the vast majority at Auckland Point. Therefore their children would attend a school in the vicinity and the numbers of students at Auckland Point grew. However, as the city centre moved away from the shoreline, the population of Nelson moved with it and Auckland Point School was no longer part of a main catchment area. Today there are just 52 students in attendance; however the school is gradually growing, owing to the introduction of a kindergarten in October 2010. The addition of this new facility provides a natural transition from kindergarten to primary school, and therefore the school's population is non-transient.

Although small, Auckland Point School has withstood the test of time and remains a significant part of Nelson history. Although it has faced hardships, such as the dramatic loss of pupils, two earthquakes and demolition, it has always survived, because of the remarkable spirit found in the teachers and pupils; pride in their school, pride in their heritage. Auckland Point is a unique school full of life and character and this will no doubt continue in the years to come.

Amelia Cina, Nelson College for Girls, 2011. 
Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Nelson City Council Information Board, Matangi Awhio, Haven Road
  2. Brock, H. (1998) Adze Tools Found in Schoolyard, The Nelson Mail
  3. Author Unknown, (1972) Education Board Inspects School, The Nelson Evening Mail

Want to find out more about the Auckland Point School ? View Further Sources here.

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  • Looking for photos of my Mother in the 1920s

    Posted by Zoe Isabel Dobson , 02/11/2018 7:18pm (5 years ago)

  • I would like to see some photos of my mother at school in the 1920s

    Posted by Zoe Isabel Dobson , 02/11/2018 7:15pm (5 years ago)

  • I remember when the school grounds were extended. There were archaeologists sifting through the ground. They found Maori adze as well as more modern European crockery. This was in 1983.

    Posted by Rebekah, 19/03/2016 5:31pm (8 years ago)

  • my mother janet olive ellis born 13 july 1923 attended auckland point school and i understand that she was at the school when the murchison earthquake struck. are there any records of her attendance etc of her being there. Ed. it is possible that the attendance records may be held by Archives NZ ( but I could not see them in the Nelson lists. There is an archive at the Nelson Provincial Museum which includes exam registers for the period. Contact those organisations.

    Posted by nigel jenkins, 26/02/2015 9:47pm (9 years ago)

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Further sources - Auckland Point School


  • Broad, L., (1892) The Jubilee History of Nelson, Bond Finney and Co. : Nelson, p.82
  • Mitchell, H and J., (2004) Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka Volume I TeTangata Me Te Whenua The People of the Land, Huia Publishers: Wellington,  pp. 71, 302
  • Wyllie, H. (1973) Auckland Point School Reunion Booklet. publishers unknown: Nelson


  • Brock, H., (1998) Adze tools found in school yard. The Nelson Mail.
  • Cowdrey, A., (2010, February 25) Moller Fountain Not Ratty and Tatty Anymore. The Nelson Mail. 
  • Kindergarten opens at School (2010, October 12The Nelson Mail.
  • Children Dig into Improved Grounds. (2009, April 8) The Nelson Mail.
  • Dinosaurs Lurking Among the Daffodils (2009, September 9) The Nelson Mail. 
  • Auckland Point to Mark 75 Years (2002, June 27) The Leader.
  • Pupils Bus to Preferred School (1997, May 13) The Nelson Mail.
  • Education Board Inspects School (1972, November 21) The Nelson Evening Mail.
  • Haven Road School to be Replaced by Substation (1956, April 15) The Nelson Evening Mail.
  • Auckland Point School Annual Report (1933, May 2) The Nelson Evening Mail.
  • Question of Safety (1933, September 19) The Nelson Evening Mail.
  • Visit Upon Visit a Nelson School Board and Minister Signs of Feeling (1931, June 16) The Evening Post, p 8. 
  • Nelson News (1927, July 27) The Evening Post, p.16.


  •  Author Unknown, (1929), ‘Auckland Point School Minutes Book'. Nelson Provincial Museum


  • Elliot Cina, 7A Beachville Cres, Nelson, 15th June 2011.
  • Sonya Hockley, Auckland Point School, Haven Road, Nelson, 20th June 2011.

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