75th birthday celebrations for Hato Pāora College

By Aroha Awarau

Hato Pāora College, a Catholic Māori boarding school for boys in Feilding, will celebrate its 75th Jubilee during Labour Weekend in October.

That's a milestone for the kura because it’s one of the few Māori boarding schools in Aotearoa to survive.

Principal Nathan Matthews, who attended Hato Pāora College as a student in the 1990s, says Māori boarding schools like Hato Paora have played an important role in Aotearoa, despite many of them being forced to close while others are struggling to remain open.

“Māori boarding schools haven’t fared so well in recent times, so it’s a celebration of us still being open and being an ongoing kura as an option for our communities. Māori boarding schools have played an important part in the development of Māori society, particularly through the 20th century. All of the schools have contributed significantly to Māori leadership and continue to impact Māori and New Zealand society,” he says.

Located in farmlands in Cheltenham near Feilding, Hato Pāora College was founded in 1948 by the Catholic branch of the Society of Mary under the leadership of Marist priest Father Issac Gupwell. 

The vision for the school was to create an environment for boys to grow into young men with strong reo and tikanga Māori, to promote Catholic and Māori values, to provide a solid education and to encourage achievement and success.

'Lifelong friendships'

Matthews is one of the former pupils who benefited from the school’s teachings and returned as principal in 2018. Other well-known former students include kapa haka composer Morvin Simon, the first Māori Catholic bishop, Max Mariu, and professional rugby players Shannon Paku and Otere Black.

“A highlight for me was regularly being exposed to te reo Māori and tikanga Māori, formally and informally. Above all else, was the camaraderie among the students and the development of lifelong friendships. We didn't have all the flashiest facilities or resources but we made the most of every situation,” Matthews says.

The Labour weekend celebrations include a formal banquet dinner, a karaoke night, an archive exhibition, a history book launch and a special mass.

Organising committee chair Tata Lawton, who is also a former pupil, says Hato Pāora College has survived 75 years because of the support of many Māori communities in Aotearoa.

“Hato Pāora has been fortunate in that its very existence is due to Māori communities, particularly Ngāti Kauwhata, Whanganui, Manawatū, Taranaki, Horowhenua and Hawkes Bay whānau. They have remained staunch supporters of the kura and what it stands for along with the legacy of those early Catholic priests and brothers.”

The 75th Hato Pāora Jubilee celebrations are from October 21 – 24. To register visit here or email jubilee@hatopaora.school.nz.