Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996


By Gordon Mathieson

Many older ex-pupils of Paeroa will doubtless remember the Manual Training School when it was located in Miller Avenue. But the story behind its establishment was one of seemingly endless delays, postponements and many deputations and official visits by education authorities in numerous attempts to get it up and running.

As early as 1908 various efforts had been made toward such a centre being established. This article charts the course of events that led to its construction.

The first reference to this came from the minutes of the October 1908 School Committee meeting, urging that members agree that sending pupils to Manual classes at Thames by train was not in their best interests. Little appears to have been done at this time, and we find that five years later, correspondence between the Paeroa District High School (P.D.H.S.) Committee secretary, Mr J Black, and the Assistant Inspector of Schools notes that Paeroa is the natural centre for a regional High School/Agricultural College, but again nothing is done.

The next move is slightly more positive, with the Education Department giving favourable consideration for the purchase of land for a future facility (July 1914), but hopes of an early start are dashed with the outbreak of World War I (August 1914 - November 1918).

The first definite move occurred during May 1919 when, in a visit to Paeroa by Mr David Dunlop, the Auckland Education Board Advisory Inspector, in response to a previous deputation, he agreed that a Manual Training School should be built. (Mr Dunlop had been the Headmaster of P.D.H.S. from 1912-1916, so he had taken a personal interest in the matter.) In July 1919 another visit - this one from Messrs Burns and Kalaugher of the Manual and Technical Schools Department, was received at the Ohinemuri County Council Chambers by members of P.D.H.S. Committee and local bodies, but no assurances were made.

The school and town received a visit from the Prime Minister, Mr William Massey in December 1919 and, not letting an opportunity slip by, put to him the ever-burning question of the Manual Training Centre. Mr Massey agreed to follow the matter up. Shortly after, the Minister of Education, Mr C J Parr announced that a grant had been made available for the purchase of land in Miller Avenue.

On 7 June 1921 Mr Parr visited Paeroa and was met by Mr Hugh Poland, M.P.; Mr William Huia Taylor, Chairman of P.D.H.S.; Paeroa Borough Councillors and School Committee members. The matter had been brought before the Auckland Education Board on several occasions, and it agreed that a Manual Centre be established but had been unable to convince the Department of Education.

The following points were put to the Minister:

a: Night Classes had been recently started - English, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, Shorthand and Typing, but no Woodwork, Mechanical Drawing, Architecture or Cookery for lack of a suitable building.

b: That Paeroa is the natural centre of a large area of the richest land in New Zealand. Children of Standards 5 and 6 and the High School (126 pupils at present) travel once a fortnight to Thames arriving back late.

Mr Parr inspected the disused Mackaytown School building and agreed with an earlier proposal that it be moved to Paeroa for use as the Manual Training Centre.

Mr Poland received this letter in reply:

Dear Sir,

Further to the deputation that awaited me at Paeroa to the establishment of a Manual Training School: I interviewed the officials of the Board of Education upon my return to Auckland. I informed them that I would favourably consider an application for a grant for the removal of the Mackaytown School for use as a cookery room and that I also approved the use of the old wooden (1896) classroom that had escaped destruction by fire, at P.D.H.S. as a woodwork room.

Yours faithfully

C J Parr

Minister of Education

Frustration experienced in the delays of officialdom caused the P.D.H.S. Committee Chairman to pen the following letter to the Auckland Education Board:

February 9, 1923

Dear Sir

I am directed to inform you that my committee having regard to the disabilities the children of this town suffer in travelling 20 miles to attend Manual classes at Thames, has reluctantly decided that during winter, the children of this school will not attend.

My committee cannot agree that children should be given extra tuition at Thames in summer and autumn to make up for the loss of time, for it considers that such a long rail journey, causing the children to be away from home from 8am until 6pm is a great strain for it to be undergone any more often than now; nor does it consider the ordinary working of the school should be interfered with any more than now.

My committee deeply regrets that the department cannot see its way to provide the children of such a large school with the means of getting their manual education under proper conditions and trusts a reconsideration of the whole matter will cause the Department to see the justice of the committee's claim that a Manual Training Centre be established at Paeroa forthwith.

Yours faithfully,

W H Taylor


The next recorded official visit came one year after Mr Taylor's letter. On 12 February 1924, Mr Parr, (Minister of Education), Mr A Burns (Auckland Education Board member) and Mr D W Dunlop came to discuss new plans for the Manual Training Centre. The earlier proposal to use the old Mackaytown School was dropped and plans were unveiled for the construction of a new building for use as a Manual Centre following the approval of a grant for that purpose from Cabinet, in July 1924.

In October 1924, a building with the following specifications was announced:

Woodwork room 30ft x 25ft (9.2 x 7.6 metres)

Cookery room 30ft x 25ft (9.2 x 7.6 metres)

Teacher's room 9ft x 9ft (2.7 x 2.7 metres)

Storeroom 8ft x 6ft (2.4 x 1.8 metres)

Pantry 8ft x 6ft (2.4 x 1.8 metres)

Two Porches 9ft x 6ft (2.7 x 1.8 metres)

Construction was to be of wood and the building would be sited on concrete blocks. The work commenced during December 1924.

It had been 17 long years since the first seeds were sown. The need for pupils to travel to Thames for their manual education was , at long last, about to end.

(To be continued in the next Journal issue) [see Journal 41: Paeroa Manual Training School - E]