Manukau topics: communities.

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Papatoetoe: 150 years of civic life

A Papatoetoe timeline from 1862 to 2012

Crest from the Papatoetoe 150th CelebrationsBruce Ringer

This timeline includes a selection of 150 events from Papatoetoe’s past. It is a contribution by Auckland Libraries to the Papatoetoe 150th celebrations 1862-2012.



For more information on Papatoetoe’s history, see the list of sources. For amendments or corrections, please contact Bruce Ringer, Team Leader South Auckland Research Centre.



In 1842, when Auckland became the capital of New Zealand, Papatoetoe was a wilderness of low-lying swamp and undulating ground covered in flax, fern and scrub. The region had been depopulated by tribal warfare in the 1820s. Maori settlement had resumed at Mangere to the west in the 1830s but Papatoetoe itself remained unpopulated, although there were traces of ancient pa sites on knolls above the Waokauri Stream.

The missionary William Fairburn claimed to have purchased this area along with a vast acreage of South Auckland in 1836. In settling his claims the Crown acquired the land as so-called ‘surplus lands’. It first offered farms for sale in the ‘Parish of Manurewa’ (present-day Mangere East, East Tamaki and Papatoetoe) in 1844.

Settlement was encouraged by the opening of the first bridge across the Tamaki River south of Otahuhu in April 1851. The first farmers to settle in the central part of Papatoetoe were the brothers James and John Wallace, who in July 1851 bought a plot of 251 acres bordered by the (present-day) railway line, St George Street and Carruth Road.

By 1855 there were enough people in the area to open a Presbyterian church beside the Great South Road not far south of the Tamaki Bridge. Initially known as the Otahuhu or the Otara Presbyterian Church, this was the predecessor of the present-day St Johns Presbyterian Church. The area’s first school was opened in the church the following year.

The name Papatoetoe—‘flat land where the toetoe grows’—came into use in the late 1850s. The misspelled version ‘Papatoitoi’ was more common until 1897 when the name of the local post office was changed to ‘Papatoetoe’. ‘Papatoitoi’ persisted in some quarters until 1923 when the name of the school was also changed.

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