Okato Primary School (Former)

2333 South Road, Okato

  • Okato Primary School (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 1/08/2008.
  • Okato Primary School (Former). Classroom block.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: N Naus. Date: 1/11/2011.
  • Okato Primary School (Former). Interior of classroom showing sash and dormer windows.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: A Dangerfield. Date: 1/04/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 935 Date Entered 1st September 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent is part of the land described as Sec 3 SO 453138 (CT 595721) & Pt Sec 2 Okato Town Belt (CT 334494), Taranaki Land District, and the fresh-air classroom buildings known as Okato Primary School (Former) thereon. Extent does not include the other buildings on the school site.

City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Sec 3 SO 453138 (CT 595721) & Pt Sec 2 Okato Town Belt (CT 334494), Taranaki Land District


The two classroom blocks that make up Okato Primary School (Former) were built in 1929. They are intact representative examples of the ‘revolutionary’ classroom design known as ‘fresh-air’ or the ‘Taranaki Type’. The design was unique to the region and dominated all new school buildings throughout the 1930s .Designed by Taranaki Education Board architect Charles Howard (C.H.) Moore, the classroom blocks have significant technological, architectural, social and historic heritage values as important physical reminders of Moore’s contribution to the practice and theory of school building design in New Zealand. The school, like many in rural areas, was a focus of public esteem and the subject of jubilee celebrations. In 2015, the community will celebrate 150 years of schooling in Okato.

The first Okato school building was opened in 1875, and this original classroom in its modified form is still present in the school grounds. By the 1920s, the school had grown considerably, and two new blocks of classrooms were needed. Moore had been appointed overseer to the Taranaki Education Board in 1909, and architect from 1920 to his retirement in 1943. The autonomy of Education Boards and their architects in New Zealand meant that the design of different ‘types’ of school buildings could be produced in response to the economic and environmental conditions of the different districts.

The 1920s was a decade of notable innovation in school building design. The Taranaki Type classroom evolved in response to the national Open Air Schools movement that had become prominent in the early part of the twentieth century, when the issues of health and wellbeing, especially the wellbeing of children, came to the fore. The Canterbury and Taranaki Education Boards and their architects responded with original designs that focused on maximising light and ventilation. The Fendalton open air classroom was opened in Christchurch in 1924 and the first fresh-air classroom (now demolished) was erected in New Plymouth in 1927 at Central School.

Moore developed the Taranaki Type in response to the Fendalton Type. The Taranaki Education Board decided that climatic conditions (both temperate and moist) in the region did not lend itself to an open-air type so Moore studied these problems and improved on the design.

The two blocks of fresh-air classrooms at Okato feature the distinctive mansard roofline pitched at 60 degrees on the south and north sides; and dormer windows to the north and clerestory windows to the south which allow light to flood the classroom spaces within. The design also includes drop sash windows on both sides of the classroom. Depending on the weather conditions, they could be raised or lowered to facilitate a current of fresh air. The classrooms are built of timber, a cost-effective material that allows for ease of alterations and additions.

Over the years, there have been minor changes to the buildings; however, they remain in good condition. Okato School closed in 2004 and was relocated to another site to become Coastal Taranaki School. The classrooms remain on their original site, awaiting a new use.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Moore, C. H.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1929 -

Completion Date

26th May 2014

Report Written By

Natasha Naus

Information Sources

Insull, 1978

Insull, H.A.H. (ed.), The Taranaki Education Board Beginnings, Struggles, Progress: A Retrospective of the Administration of Education in Taranaki 1841-1971, 1978.

Skinner, 1935

Skinner, W.H., History and Reminiscences of the Okato District. Written by W.H. Skinner, W.K. Howitt and Residents of the District, and republished from the “Taranaki Herald,” on the occasion of the Septuagenary Celebrations and Re-Union, 1865-1935, 1935

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.