The site of the Manawahe Ecological Community Centre on Manawahe Road has a long history dating back to 1921 when the original school was built. It was a one teacher school, with the teacher living in a nearby mill house. The school was also used as a community centre before the Manawahe Hall was built in 1925.
In 1928, the Manawahe South School on Pikowai Rd was moved to the same site as this Manawahe School and a teacher’s residence was built in 1931.
The current school building that is now used by the Manawahe Eco Trust was built in 1959 and throughout the 1960s other improvements were made including landscaping the school grounds, installing a learner swimming pool and upgrading the school house.
In 2010, the Manawahe School was closed and the Manawahe Eco Trust combined forces with the local community to retain and lease the school buildings, which are now to the main hub for the environmental education programme run by the Trust.
Since 2014, MET has been fortunate to receive several significant grants from Bay Trust and Trust Horizon to continue to maintain and upgrade the school buildings. The long-term goal of MET is to eventually purchase the buildings from the Crown, to ensure a long-term future for the Manawahe Ecological Community Centre and the environmental education programme that students from all over the Bay of Plenty come to take part in, as well as being able to ensure the ongoing availability of the Centre for use by the Manawahe community.
Frances Van Alphen, Chairperson of MET says “What’s important to us when the kids are up here is that they have fun and are inspired and take that enthusiasm for the environment and the area away with them.” Other community and environmental groups are also encouraged to make regular use of the MET centre.
Information and photos are kindly taken from the book ‘Manawahe from Bush to Farm’ by P J Rendall, published in 1986 by the Whakatane and District Historical Society. Copies of this book can be found in the Whakatane Library.