Staff, students, ex-students and members of the community came together to mark the official opening of the historic school building at Manakau School on December 4, 132 years after the school was opened.
Glenn Cook on behalf of Ngati Wehiwehi opened the event with a karakia. Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi unveiled the commemorative plaque with the new name of the block, Te Whare Huia, and Horowhenua District councillor Sam Jennings helped the Year 8s plant a Pohutukawa tree to mark the event.
The ribbon to the entrance was cut by John Martin, a past pupil, school committee member and grandparent to three current pupils, along with his grandson Bastion.
Initially the Ministry of Education granted approximately $123,000 to renovate one class space in the historic block, believed to be one of the oldest surviving school buildings in New Zealand. However, principal Deb Logan advocated to get the whole building restored to meet the ministry's own modern learning environment guidelines.
"The project to restore became more of a reality when we received notifications [from the ministry] of the new modular classrooms they recommend. At this point I asked to change the project guidelines from modernising to restoration."
The school eventually received around $800,000 for the project.
Deb described Te Whare Huia as a testament to the history of the school.
"It is a fully restored learning space, with the original tongue-and-groove walls, kauri washstand, and awesome workmanship.
"It includes all that a modern learning space needs in regards to acoustics, lighting and heating, while respectfully embracing the heritage status that the building deserves. It really is beautiful. This is a project we can be very proud of and is an asset for future generations to enjoy."
She praised the team at The D S O'Leary, who she said did a fantastic job of restoring the historic building.
Visitors to the restored building were able to see old enrolment registers and principal's diaries dating back to 1888 when the school first opened. There was also a collection of readers, children's works, maps and photos of Manakau through the decades.
The name Te Whare Huia is a reference to the unique and extinct New Zealand bird. One part of the building is believed to be dated 1907, which is the last official sighting of the huia.
"Huia feathers were also a symbol of mana, given as a sign of friendship, leadership and respect, perfect sentiments for a historic school building," said Deb.
The restored block will house the Year 7/8 students.