(With thanks to Mike and Helen Hammond, authors of Footsteps in Faith. A history of Howick Parish 1847 – 2010)

Our school was first established in 1847 by the local Fencible community, who were mainly Irish Catholic, and wanted their children to have an education. In 1848, Father Garin who had just arrived in the area, organised a small building which was used as a classroom and a chapel.

Lay teachers led the school until 1852. Both Father Walter McDonald and Father O’Hara wanted to have religious Sisters teaching in the Panmure and Howick schools. In 1904 the Mission Sisters arrived in Panmure, after a long and tiresome journey from Ashburton and Christchurch where they had been based. From there they travelled by pony and trap to the small school in Howick to teach the local students. They arrived on a Friday and started teaching on the Monday.


The Mission Sisters taught in Howick between 1904 and 1924. During that time the Spanish Flu, known as the Black Influenza hit and all schools were closed in 1918, while the teachers and Sisters became nurses going from home to home helping where they could. The Howick and Eastern Bus company gave the sisters free service during the epidemic because of their good works, which continues on today. Between 1904 and 1924 over 20 Mission Sisters taught at the school. During this time New Zealand’s first aviatrix Jean Batten attended Star of the Sea school for a short time.

In 1925, Bishop Cleary invited the Sisters of Mercy to open a Diocesan Orphanage in Granger Road. He had bought a large property in Granger Road, Howick and a dormitory was added onto it. For over 30 years the Sisters ran the Star of the Sea orphanage in Auckland.

2Early one morning in 1929 four sisters woke to the sound of crackling flames and just had enough time to wake up the 50 little girls in the dormitory and get to safety. Although the local people fought hard, the blaze could not be stopped and the building was lost. The Sisters, forever unshaken in their trust in God’s Providence, prepared to start all over again.

3In 1931 the new plaster and brick buildings with a picturesque view overlooking the sea were completed.

The property purchased by Bishop Cleary included 20 acres of dairy farmland which was used to provide support for the orphanage. The farm carried a herd of 10 cows, two large vegie gardens, chickens and trees. This kept the orphanage in milk, cream, vegies, eggs and wood for heating and cooking. At the time the orphanage catered for between 75 and 80 girls ranging in age from preschoolers to 18 years old. Mass was celebrated in the chapel every morning except on Sunday when everyone went up to the church. The farm was eventually sold in 1959. The Sisters not only taught the orphans but also taught Parish children at Primary level. As the area grew more space was needed and an extra classroom block was built in 1961.

5The end of 1977 saw the close of the orphanage with the remaining orphans transferred to Takapuna. The Mercy Sister’s remained at the school until 1980. From then on the school was staffed entirely by lay teachers.

Star of the Sea became an integrated school with classroom upgrades, new classrooms, a library and a resource room were added between 1987 and 1991. The growth of the Howick area meant the school was unable to meet the growing demands of Catholic education in the area and so the school was moved to its present site in Oakridge Way, Northpark.

4September 1996 saw the closure of the old school at Granger road. The move to a brand new school was filled with excitement but tempered by the sense that Star of the Sea, Granger Road had witnessed several generations of orphans and students for over 70 years.

The current school has grown dramatically over the years, now catering for around 550 children.




1847 Fencible community begin a schooling programme for their children
1848 Father Garin organises a small building to be used as a classroom and a chapel.
1852 Father Henry Fynes takes the schools in Howick, Panmure and Otahuhu under his wing
1904 The Mission Sisters start work at the school
1924 The Mission Sisters leave the school
1925 Bishop Cleary purchases land in Granger Road for an orphanage as well as a small farm
1925 The Mercy Sisters are invited by the Bishop to run the orphanage
1929 The Mercy Sisters manage to get everyone out as the building burnt to the ground
1931 The new building was opened on the same site
1959 The farm which had provided for the orphanage for over 30 years was sold.
1961 Extra classrooms were built to cater for the growing numbers of children
1977 The Mercy Sisters stayed on at the school even though the orphanage closed down
1980 The Mercy Sisters leave the school in the hand of lay teachers
1987 Growth in numbers leads to new classrooms and a library being built
1996 Granger Road site is closed and the school moves to its current site in Oakridge Way.
1998 Four additional classrooms are added on to the site
2003 A purpose built block of four classrooms was added on.
2003 The school hall, fund raised for by the wider school and parish community was opened
2010 An upgraded Administration block was opened and blessed by Bishop Patrick Dunn
2012 A Multi purpose information centre was opened.
2012 The ‘Whetumoana’ artwork was commissioned to tell our school’s story
2015 A glass Mercy Cross was commissioned as a reminder of our school’s history