Old Forest School was built in the early 1930’s to serve as a school, gathering place and hub for a small (but thriving) rural community in Pongakawa. The school shut down in the 1980’s and like many historic New Zealand properties, time took its toll. The buildings and property lost some of their former luster.

Back in 2007 the McMahons (Su-an, Alistair, Holly and Rose) made the bold decision to leave Auckland and rescue a country school in desperate need of some major repair, restoration and love. Fast forward a number of years and the buildings and property had been renovated and Old Forest School is a fabulous venue. Holly is now living in Wellington completed a double Science Degree from Victoria University and Rose is a successful photographer and filmmaker living in Auckland, see some of Rose’s work here.  

There’s lots of animals hanging out at Old Forest School, some of them doing hard work the others just enjoying the sun. The group includes Halo a Golden Retriever, a herd of cats; Milly Huckleberry, Porto and Bello, two miniature donkeys called Teddy and Tim, plus a pair of Kunekune pigs named William and Wallace. 

We believe in doing out bit for the community, Old Forest School is a proud supporter of The Rotoehu Ecological Trust. A community based organization to protect the endangered Kokako and other native birds in the Rotoehu Forest.



A very brief history of Old Forest School

  • 1933 Pioneer tobacco farmers requests Department of Education to build a school in the valley
  • 1933 Department of Education takes steps to erect a temporary school
  • 1933 Temporary school building used with a role of 24
  • 1933 School building completed – Pongakawa Valley School
  • 1934 First School Committee meeting
  • 1936 First Arbor Day celebrated and Headmasters cottage built
  • 1937 NZ Forest Service plants 24,000 acres in Pines surrounding school
  • 1939 Government abandons tobacco farming scheme
  • 1941 School Building extended
  • 1943 Pool and tennis court build – cost 90 pounds
  • 1947 School temporarily closed with a Polio epidemic
  • 1952 Electricity installed at school
  • 1953 School name changed to Rotoehu Forest School
  • 1958 Cartwheel merry-go-round, old motorbike & car installed in playground
  • 1958 Telephones installed
  • 1960 Football posts erected
  • 1962 New toilet block and storeroom addition
  • 1962 Garage at Headmasters cottage built
  • 1963 School trip to Tauranga Domain to see Queen Elizabeth II
  • 1963 Extra classroom built
  • 1964 Rural mail deliveries start at school
  • 1970 School named changed to Rotoehu School
  • 1977 School library open to public
  • 1979 Pool resurfaced with fiberglass shell
  • 1983 50th Jubilee celebration
  • 1986 School closed and sold by tender
  • 2007 School purchased by McMahon family
  • 2013 Opens as a venue