Why is our name Te Totara?
'Te Totara Primary School' is the name determined by unanimous, enthusiastic resolution of the Establishment Board of Trustees. Throughout an intensive decision-making process, key considerations have been the importance of carrying out appropriate consultation, building accurate historical and environmental knowledge of the area, harmonising with the school's philosophy and vision, fostering a sense of identity with the school and lifting the educational aspirations of the entire school community. This name fulfils these conditions and more.
The Board's approach to Mr Hare Puke for advice and support was a crucial step. Hare is senior kaumatua of Ngati Wairere and Chair of Nga Mana Toopu O Kirikiriroa, which represents the seven sub-tribes (hapu) of Tainui and brings together a large number of kaumatua with specific historical knowledge and guardianship responsibility for the lands of the Waikato basin. Ministry of Education through the Hamilton office had already sought formal advice about effects on and implications of the proposed development of a new school in terms of Mäori cultural values and history of the land upon which the new school is to be sited. A comprehensive report prepared by consultant Wiremu Puke was presented in person to the Board at its meeting on 18 July 2007. The Board is most grateful for this mine of information, deeply considered guidance and inspirational sense of excitement about the development of the area.
'Te Totara Primary School' is situated in a location of ecological significance and historical importance. For Ngati Wairere reaching back well before European settlement times, a prominent aspect of the general area was a peat lake named Tunawhakapeke, which was abundant with tuna (eels) so crucial then for sustaining life and culture. After being drained and developed, the area encompassing the school property and surrounding lands featured stands of native trees and flaxes. Prominent on the ridges were Manuka, Miro, Kauri and indeed numerous majestic Totara with their total capacity to symbolise and engender leadership, mana and stewardship, and their berries containing those seeds of learning to plant in future generations. The overall landscape supported a thriving lifestyle under and guided by the stars, based on community and sustainability, which Wiremu's report describes in a colourful manner.
Of great importance was the central place of a papakainga (unfortified village) named 'Te Totara', inhabited by Ngati Wairere, Ngati Waikai, Ngati Koura and Ngati Hanui. Its actual site was within what is now called Featherstone Reserve. To quote Wiremu's report: 'According to written accounts of Waharoa Te Puke of Ngati Wairere, Te Totara derives its name from a large Totara tree in the locality. It is unknown exactly where this tree stood, however it was regarded as a Rakau Tipua (a sacred tree).' According to Ngati Wairere kaumatua Mana Martin who died in 2002, Te Totara was last occupied in the 1860s by his grandfather and people connected to him, Hakopa Te Huia a chief who had converted to Christianity. Subsequently, this area was caught up in events that have shaped the land and relationships in profound ways. The latest evolving saga is about the rapid expansion of Hamilton City to the northeast, including of course the provision of facilities for learning.
Thus, in summary, 'Te Totara Primary School' acquires its name, a name worthy of the past, symbolic of present aspirations and inspirational for taking us all forward into a bright future.