Maketu School will celebrate 150 years of history later this year.

The school opened on November 19, 1866. It was called the Native Day School and had one teacher, George Firth, who taught 32 students.

The 150 years of history would be celebrated between November 19-21, with a range of events hopefully including a get-together dinner, a sports and activity day, and a church service on the Sunday.

The school has produced an array of well-known New Zealanders in its time, including Sir Charles Bennett, Sir Peter Tapsell and the Maketu cooking sisters Kasey and Karena Bird.


Today, the school had 63 students. Every new school year there would be between 60 and 75 children enrolled, with 98 per cent of the children Maori.

Read more: Overcrowding on school buses upsets parents

Liam Tapsell, projects team manager for the celebrations, also attended the school.

Mr Tapsell started at the school in 1950 as a new entrant and left after completing standard six.

"I really enjoyed my time there, I wasn't looking forward to high school."

Memories of his time at the school have started to come flooding back.

In either 1953 or 1954 the fish and chip shop opened in Maketu, he said.

"The school became involved with lunches - a teacher would take the names of those who wanted it for lunch. It was a shilling. At about 11.40am, the teacher would ask, 'who wants to run down to the shop to get the box and bring it up'. I was always one who went. We would stop half-way back and open up the packets of food and take a few chips out of each one and put it into our own packet. Then close them back up again and go back up to school - ours being quite full."

The school used the same fish and chip shop as a reward system for its students.

Mr Tapsell said one of the most notable things about Maketu School was its ability to involve the local community.

"Once a year we used to have fancy dress which all the kids in the school looked forward to. It was a night out at the marae, we dressed up, they took photos and a couple of days later they would all be up outside one of the local shops. Everybody would be down there looking at the photos. The community was very involved with the school at that time, it was the centre point of the village."

Mr Tapsell said he hoped about 200 people would attend the event.

Maketu School acting principal Regan Williams said he was looking forward to the celebrations.

"With the school being 150 years, I don't think there will be many others that old in New Zealand, so with these celebrations it's a big year for the school, the people of Maketu and the ex-pupils."

Student view: What is your favourite thing about Maketu School?

"Lunchtime where I hang out with my mates and being the sports rep." - Phoenix Himiona, 10
"Playing sports with friends, I like tag, rugby and soccer." - Joseph Goldsmith, 9