From Waiariki to Toi Ohomai

Provision for tertiary education in Rotorua was first made in 1881 when the Rotorua College and Grammar School Endowments were established by the New Zealand Government. These are five blocks of valuable commercial property in the Rotorua Central Business District.

The introduction of tertiary education to Rotorua was first raised in 1910, when it was suggested that a technical school be established in the town. However, it was not until the Technical Department at the Rotorua High School (now Rotorua Boys’ High School) opened in 1939, that technical education officially began in Rotorua. The first night classes for adult students were offered by the school in engineering, carpentry, electrical wiring, secretarial, book-keeping, home cookery, and arts and crafts.

In 1961, Rotorua Boys’ High School separated out its carpentry, engineering and secretarial courses and transferred the secretarial and commercial courses to Rotorua Girls’ High School. In 1968, Rotorua Girls’ High School formed its secretarial and commercial courses into the Rotorua Girls’ High School Business College at Salmond House.

1978 - Waiariki Community College is born

In 1972, the Rotorua Boys’ High School Technical Institute Division was established at Rotorua Boys’ High School for its carpentry and engineering courses. It was merged with the Rotorua Girls' High School Business College to form a Senior Technical Division under the Rotorua High Schools' Board of Governors in 1976. Building on the Mokoia Drive site commenced that year, and the Waiariki Community College was opened two years later on 1 April 1978.

In its first years, students enrolled for courses in the secretarial, general studies and technical departments. During the 1980s, further courses and qualifications in business management, tourism and hospitality, nursing, hairdressing, journalism, Māori studies, and arts were introduced.

The Technical Institute Division had established an “outpost” at Tokoroa in 1973, and this subsequently became Waiariki’s first regional campus in 1978. During the 1980s, additional campuses were also opened in Whakatane, Taupo, Turangi and Kawerau.

1987 - A couple more name changes and offering degrees

By the time Waiariki Community College changed its name to Waiariki Polytechnic in 1987, it was the largest polytechnic outside of the main city centres. Forestry training was also added to the range of courses following the demise of the New Zealand Forest Service in 1987.

The first two degree-level qualifications in tourism management and nursing were launched in 1995, and the Bachelor of Māori Studies followed in 1997. A year later, the first Waiariki graduation ceremony was held at the Rotorua Convention Centre in 1998. That year also saw another change in name to Waiariki Institute of Technology. 

2007 - Campus growth and development

The Waiariki Academy of Sport was established in 2007, and the Waiariki Academy of Singing and Music was established in 2011. Postgraduate-level certificates, diplomas and master’s degrees were introduced in 2014.

The Mokoia Drive campus has grown considerably since the first two buildings were constructed in late 1976. A lot of building activity occurred during the 1980s, and the major development during the 1990s was the building of Tangatarua Marae, which was opened on 5 October 1996, by then-Governor-General, the Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Hardie Boys.

On 18 March 2001, the student learning centre, Te Wairere Learning Resource Centre, was opened by then-Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark. The Waiariki National Centre of Excellence for the Forest and Wood Industry was opened by the Hon. Steve Chadwick, M.P. for Rotorua and Minister of Conservation on 25 July 2008, and the Waiariki Community Recreation Centre was opened on 3 June 2010 by Dame Susan Devoy. 

Te Tāhuhuroa o Ihenga below Tangatarua Marae was opened on 9 February 2012 by the Governor-General, Lieutenant-General the Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry Mataparai. On 1 May 2012, the adjoining Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park was purchased by Waiariki for future expansion and to develop the Tangatarua Hall of Residence, and in late 2013 construction of the new health and sciences building commenced.

2016 - Fourth largest ITP in New Zealand

The Bay of Plenty region reached a significant milestone in its tertiary education history on 1 May 2016 when Bay of Plenty Polytechnic merged with Waiariki Institute of Technology to become the fourth largest ITP in New Zealand, Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

2017 - Toi Ohomai is launched

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology is an amalgamation of two high performing institutions – Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga and Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua. The institutions merged in May 2016 to better meet the education and employment needs of the region.

Our Timeline

  • 1881: Provision for tertiary education in Rotorua first made in 1881 with the establishment by the New Zealand Government of the Rotorua College and Grammar School Endowments.
  • 1939: Tertiary education in Rotorua began with the establishment of the Rotorua High School (now Rotorua Boys' High School) Technical Department.
  • 1961: Rotorua Boys' High School separated out its engineering, carpentry and secretarial night classes. The secretarial classes were transferred to Rotorua Girls' High School.
  • 1968: Rotorua Girls' High School formed its secretarial classes into the Rotorua Girls' High School Business College.
  • 1972: Rotorua Boys' High School formed its technical classes (carpentry and engineering) into the Rotorua Boys' High School Technical Institute Division (TID).
  • 1976: Rotorua High Schools' Board of Governors (which oversaw the five Rotorua high schools before the advent "Tomorrow's Schools" in 1989) merged the TID and Business College into the autonomous Rotorua High Schools' Board Senior Technical Division.
  • 1978: On 1 April 1978, Waiariki Community College was established and it was officially opened by then-Minister of Education, the Hon. L.W. Gandar, on 21 June 1978.
  • 1987: Waiariki changed its name to Waiariki Polytechnic.
  • 1998: Waiariki Polytechnic became Waiariki Institute of Technology.
  • 2016: On 1 May 2016 Waiariki Institute of Technology and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic merged and became Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
  • 2017: On 10 October 2017 Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic was officially renamed and became Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

Page last updated: 02 May 2017