A Brief History of Karamu High School

Karamu High School was opened in 1962, the city of Hastings first co-educational high school and came at a time when the city and its suburbs where undergoing significant growth.

The school's name was derived from the Karamu tree Coprosma lucida. This tree had great significance in early Maori religion. It symbolised life and all the goodness in the earth and mankind. It also had the power to cleanse both spiritually and mentally. Currently the school has numerous Karamu trees forming a hedge which surrounds the main student recreation area.

The school opened with 8 staff and 175 pupils, it reached its peak in 1974 with 70 staff and 1,339 pupils. In 1975, Havelock North High School was built to service the Havelock North community and this eased the overcrowding at Karamu. In the 1990's Flaxmere College was opened to serve the Flaxmere community and today Karamu has a stable roll 900 pupils and a staff of 90.

The school's motto, Knowledge Is Strength He Mana tā Te Mātauranga emphasises the important role knowledge plays in a strong and successful life and is the basis of good citizenship.

In 2009 the Ministry of Education announced that a 8 Million dollar modernisation project would take place at Karamu which was officially opened at the 50th Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

Tira Ora

‘Tira Ora’ is the name given to the branchlet of the Karamu tree, so an ideal name for branchlets or students of Karamu. This will also be the name given to the Alumni Association to be formed in the near future

Each Newsletter from 2020 has a section where news of Karamu alumni will be shared so if you have news of ex-students that you are willing to share please email [email protected]

Tira Ora alumni registration is available here.

Past Principals

During the past fifty years Karamu has had seven Principals (incl current):

  • Mr N Wilde, B.A. M.Sc. (Hons) – 1962 - 1971
  • Mr R D McGarvey, M.A. – 1972 - 1985
  • Mr M J Lewis, M.Sc. – 1986 - 1999
  • Mr M J Purcell, B.A., Dip.Spec.Ed., M.Ed.(Cant)., M.Ed.Admin - 2000 - 2008
  • Mr M J O'Grady, B.Agr., PGDipEdAdminLead. – 2008 - 2015
  • Mr M Leitch, B.Ed., Dip Tchg. - 2016 - 2019
  • Mrs D Thomas, M.Ed Admin & Lead., B.Ph.Ed., Dip Tchg. -  2020 - current

Past Pupils

Prominent past pupils of Karamu High School include:

  • Sir Paul Holmes – Broadcasting
  • Ms Annah Stretton – Clothing Design
  • Mr Mike Williams – Politics
  • Hon. David Butcher – Politics
  • Mr James Griffin – NZ Film and TV
  • Mr Jonathan Krebs – Law
  • Dr Karen Cooper – Science Research
  • Mr Peter Wardle – Art
  • Ms Mojo Mathers – Politics
  • Ms Meka Whitiri - Member of Parliment for Ikaroa Rawhiti
  • Mr Ngahiwi Tomoana - Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Chairman

Sculpture Sponsors

Platinum Sponsors

Tumu Timbers (O'Sullivan Family)


Jacob Scott

Dr Les Buckley

The Hastings Landmarks Trust

Gold Sponsors

June & Don Clark      Clothier Family      O'Grady Family

Chris Wiffen      Hastings Pakn'Save (Pam & David Smith)

Dr William Thompson      Gary Pidd Architects

CNC Profile Cutting      Best-Forsyth Electrical

Shannon Bray Landscape Architect Ltd      Bridgeman Concrete

Strata Group Consulting Engineers      JMC Concrete Placing (H.B.) Ltd

Mantell-Harding Earthworks      Panton Plumbing Ltd

Gearey Painting Co      Karamu High School Staff & Students 2012

Silver Sponsors 

Kim Baker     Margaret Bendall     Janice Critoph     Rangi Daymond     

Narelle De Frere     Dave & Alison de Lange     Heather Gregory     

Koreen Hall     Graeme Higgins     Paul Houston     Pei Huang      

Simon Jones     Chris Loveder Family     Jeff Lynex     Barbara MacLean     

Rob McDonald     Bob McGarvey     Gorham Milbank

Rodney Tregerthan     Michael Paul     Raymond and Megan McLaren & Family     Ross, Viv & Rebecca Hantler     Aaron & Shane Hantler

Wayne Wooster     Margaret Standing     Christine Lissette     John Mason     Iain Taylor     Tracy Taylor     Ben Taylor     Kezia Taylor     Leonie Bennett

Vivienne Olsen     Glenys Coughlan     Sharon Nelson-Kelly     Carl Allen     Tina & Jordan Travers     Tom, Fiona, Adam & Ashley Blake

Hastings Demolition Ltd     Pixel Power Ltd     Jo Morris & Murray Harty and Family     Bruce Ralston     Matthew Strickland     Phillipa Tibbles

etch-it     Bronwyn & Hilary Morgan     Holden Family     William Thompson     Christine Ingle & Family     Kukri NZ Ltd