Ōtara community lashes Luxon for calling high school ‘Botany’

By Candice Luke

By Candice Luke, Te Rito Journalism cadet. Tangaroa College First XV Photo / Tangaroa College Sport/Facebook

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is in hot water with a south Auckland community after claiming a local sports team was “out of Botany” when it was really from Ōtara.

Luxon shared a post from the Tangaroa College Facebook page with a message to its 1st XV team after the head-turning victory against the 1A competition heavyweights, Auckland Grammar.

Photo: Tangaroa College’s newly capped players Mikaele Ta'avao, left, and Sefuluai Vaimauga. Photo / Tangaroa College Sport/Facebook

“Congratulations to the Tangaroa College 1st XV on winning their game over Auckland Grammar this weekend! Great game and great result, well done boys. I love seeing wins coming out of Botany!”

For context, Grammar has produced more All Blacks than any school in the country and has won or shared the title 66 times since the competition started in 1896. 

On the other hand, Tangaroa College is a decile one school with no imports, no scholarships, no out-of-zone players, no repeaters, and “probably the smallest budget in Auckland 1st XV Rugby,” according to the school sports Facebook page.

 'Give credit where it's due'

The post is causing a stir online, with residents calling out Luxon for being absent in the community, with others correcting his statement. 

“So because they’ve won, they’re now from Botany. Tangaroa is in Ōtara, give credit where it’s due and use the right location when praising kids for their achievements”, said an Ōtara resident in the politician's comment thread. 

Some suggested the claim was convenient for Luxon and cherry-picking, with one local saying, “If it’s positive, it’s Botany. If it were a crime instead or something bad, it would no doubt be Ōtara.”

Luxon is the MP for the Botany electorate encompassing Tangaroa College, with the western boundary running along Preston Road, only 800 metres from the secondary school. 

The majority of Ōtara falls under the Panmure-Ōtāhuhu electorate and the care of Labour MP Jenny Salesa.  

Never been to the school

Salesa says, “I can relate and I understand the reaction from our local Ōtara community to the post. I read a note from Apulu Reece Autagavaia, the chair of Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board and one of the things he stated was ‘Ōtara is Ōtara’ and I fully endorse that sentiment.”

Local Pastor Cliff Wadsworth says Ōtara residents within the Botany boundary are “in limbo”.

“Residents have no idea who the candidates are because they are focused on Botany Town Centre. Now Luxon has come in, he’s totally disconnected from that part of his electorate.”

“This is why the Tangaroa College thing was seen as very inappropriate for him to claim the victory, since he has never even been to the school once to my knowledge,” the pastor says. 

Photo:  Christopher Luxon at the opening of the bike track at Dawson Road Primary in 2020. Photo / Christopher Luxon/Facebook

'Just wanted to acknowledge and celebrate'

The community has been through a spate of gang-related shootings in recent weeks, making any wins a welcome relief. 

Tangaroa College interim principal Imeleta Faumuina appreciates that the school was acknowledged for its success on the sports field.

“It’s nice. I don’t have a problem with it. A lot of people don’t realise we are part of the Botany electorate,” she says about the post that has almost 500 responses from irate locals. 

Asked what Luxon could do for the community, Faumuina says, “We welcome any politicians to visit our school as we haven’t had any here since Jacinda Ardern came to visit our Connected Learning Centre.” That was in 2018.

In response to the backlash, Luxon pointed out he has visited a number of schools in the Botany electorate, including Dawson Primary School, which is around the corner from Tangaroa College. 

“I just wanted to acknowledge and celebrate Tangaroa College beating Auckland Grammar. The school is in the Botany electorate and I thought it was a brilliant result.”

Electoral boundaries are redrawn after every census and will not be revisited again until just before the 2026 general election.