Okarito School (Former)

2 Palmerston Street, Russell Street And The Strand, Okarito

  • Okarito School (Former). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 29/07/2016.
  • Okarito School (Former) alongside the Memorial Obelisk. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 29/07/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5047 Date Entered 21st September 1989


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Res 157, Okarito School House (NZ Gazette 1990 p. 2079), Westland Land District and the building known as Okarito School (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Westland District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Res 157, Okarito School House (NZ Gazette 1990 p. 2079), Westland Land District


The small timber Okarito School (Former) is largely a 1901 (and later) rebuild of a relocated 1860s school building, which tells the story of the ambitions and challenges of providing a formal educational facility in the ‘boom and bust’ town of Okarito.

In the mid nineteenth century, Okarito was a thriving port and supply centre as a result of intense but short-lived gold activity in the area. At its height, Okarito had a population of 5,000. A school, 150 square feet (13 square metres) was opened near the wharf at Okarito on 21 May 1867, with J H La Motte Ralfe as First Master. From 1879 to 1900 the teacher was Mr J O Wilson, and during this time there were frequent issues with the building flooding. In 1901 it was determined that the school should be shifted to a drier, vacant, site owned by the Council and tenders were put out for the removal and re-erection of the school. Mr B Dickens won the contract and the school was ‘practically rebuilt’ on its new site. Anna Patrick (Dolly) was the teacher at this time. At the time of its shift and rebuild, the school building was described as ‘one of the oldest buildings on the West Coast’.

Okarito School (Former) is a single storeyed timber building, rectangular in plan with an entrance porch on the north-east side and an adjoining lean-to and a shed and toilet extension to the south rear. The exterior walls comprise weatherboards of various types and corrugated steel cladding. There is a set of three double-hung sash windows along the north elevation and one each to the east and west. The roof is corrugated steel. The interior comprises two main rooms. Both the walls and ceiling are lined with tongue and groove panelling.

Some time before 1926 a porch with small bell tower was added to the east elevation. The school continued to operate, though there were several breaks in continuance, one in 1923-4 and another in 1927. Okarito’s population dwindled through the 1920s and 1930s and the school eventually closed in 1946. In 1958 the site was put into reserve status but the building was in a dilapidated state. In around 1960 there were only four permanent residents in Okarito. With the help of the Greymouth branch of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), a major restoration project was undertaken and the building was opened as a YHA shelter in 1960. Between 1960 and 1990, the shelter was the only place for travellers to spend a night in Okarito. In 1990 the building’s structural frame and foundations, exterior cladding and roof were largely rebuilt. Modern kitchen facilities were installed and rear lean-to with shed and outside toilet was added. Between 1990 and 2010 the Okarito Community Association ran the Okarito School House as accommodation. It remains popular as bookable bunk accommodation through the Department of Conservation.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1901 -
Present building constructed, partly using materials from an 1860s school house.

Covered entrance porch added on east elevation

1990 -
Exterior restoration/partial replacement of materials, addition of rear lean-to

Completion Date

8th April 2015

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Other Information

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.

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