Rāpaki School Restoration

Rāpaki School stands proudly as a rare surviving example of a 19th-century building within a Ngāi Tahu settlement. Built in the 1870s, it was part of a network of village primary schools established by the Native School Department to provide education for children in Ngāi Tahu communities.

For 70 years, Rāpaki School served as a vital educational centre for children growing up at Rāpaki. However, it was more than just a school, it fostered cultural connection and provided a foundation for future generations.

Even after its closure following WW2 due to falling rolls, the building remained a hub for hapū meetings, a preschool for local children and a base for Tangata Tiaki (guardians of local marine environment).

Very few former Native School buildings around the country remain. Rāpaki School provides a tangible connection to this architecturally, socially, culturally, and historically significant site.

Today, facing the need for preservation, a dedicated restoration project is underway.

Join us in safeguarding this cultural treasure and ensuring its legacy lives on.

Donate Now


The hītori (history) of Rāpaki School

What does Rāpaki School mean to our whanau and local community?

Watch the hītori (history) of Rāpaki School, as told by Kaumātua Donald Couch.

“Our old schoolhouse has served us for 150 years, and with this restoration, it will serve us and the community for another 150 years. It will not only represent an important time in our history but will provide a supplementary informal space to do things separately from the marae.”

Donald Couch, Kaumātua

The Restoration Journey

This restoration project aims to:

  • Secure the building’s structural integrity for future generations.
  • Enhance accessibility to cater to the diverse needs of the community.
  • Modernise the space while preserving its historical and architectural significance.

This will require significant repairs, maintenance, seismic strengthening, an ablutions block and moving the building to a more stable, less erosion-prone site on the same section. 

Why your support matters

  • Preserving Heritage: Few buildings like Rāpaki School remain. Your contribution ensures this cultural and historical taonga (treasure) is protected for future generations.
  • Investing in the Community: The restored school will serve as a vibrant, safe, and fit-for purpose space for local schools, community groups and the people of Rāpaki.
  • Supporting Sustainability: This project prioritises restoration and adaptive reuse, promoting sustainable practices in heritage conservation.
  • Connecting to the Past: Rāpaki School serves as a tangible link to the rich history of the Ngāi Tahu people and Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour region.

The Future of Rāpaki School

We’ve made progress!

The school has been successfully moved to its new location and work has begun.

Thanks to support from Christchurch City Council Heritage Fund, the Parkinson Memorial Trust, Rata Foundation and Lottery Community Facilities Committee, we have $400,000 in hand for the project.

However, with the total budget exceeding $700, 000, we need your help to complete the restoration.

Every contribution counts. Donate today and be part of Rāpaki School’s remarkable journey.

To Donate:

Please visit our donation page.

Thank you for helping us bring Rāpaki school back to life.

To donate direct:
Name of account: Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke Inc
Account: 02-0871-0084377-000
Reference: Rāpaki School

Our old schoolhouse has served us for 150 years and with this restoration it will serve us and the community for another 150 years. It will not only represent an important time in our history but will provide a supplementary informal space to do things separately from the marae.

Donald Couch, Kaumātua

The repair, maintenance, conservation, and upgrade works will ensure the building remains a safe, updated and fit for purpose space for ongoing community use. It will enable Te Hapū o Ngāi Wheke to preserve and continue to use this taonga from the past to provide cultural opportunities in the future.

Brendan Smyth, Heritage Team Leader CCC

The restoration of the building will not only sustain and make tangible this history in architectural form, it will also ensure the School continues to be part of hapū life and the mauri of Rāpaki, as well as visited and appreciated by manuhiri. As a result of the earthquakes our heritage buildings are now few and far between which makes it significantly more difficult for our young people to connect with their past. Having this building available for community use will be an important place to grow that connection

Sarah Van der Burch, (former) Chair Project Lyttelton

Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke are in a very good position to deliver this project. They have accumulated significant recent experience in architecture and restoration projects at Rāpaki – having fundraised and completed the building of new marae buildings and landscaping, and the restoration of the church.

Dr Jessica Halliday, Director Te Pūtahi Centre for Architecture and City Making

Rāpaki School Restoration