Pictured; Ōtara street, 1970s
Ōtara is a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, situated 18 kilometres to the southeast of the Auckland CBD. Ōtara lies near the head of the Tāmaki River (actually an arm of the Hauraki Gulf), which extends south towards the Manukau Harbour. Contemporary Ōtara is surrounded by the suburbs ofŌtāhuhu, Middlemore, Mangere, Papatoetoe, Wiri, Manurewa, Manukau Heights, Flat Bush, Botany Downs, Pakuranga and Howick. The suburb is noted for its proportion of Pacific Islander residents, who make up 68% of the Ōtara population and its unusually low number of New Zealand European(Pākehā) residents (13%).
In the Māori language, Ō-Tara means ‘the place of Tara’ or ‘territory belonging to Tara’, who was a Rangatira (or Māori Chief) of the area. ‘Ōtara’ is in turn the shortened form of Te Puke o Tara(literally; ‘The Hill of Tara’); known also for a time as Smales Mount. Te Puke o Tara was one of Ōtara’s prominent volcanic cones, and prior to European settlement in the area was the site of a scoria cone Pā. Like most of Auckland, the Ōtara landscape is volcanic in origin and forms a part of what is known as the East Tāmaki volcanic field, with Te Puke o Tara and Mātanginui (Greenmount) having been the dominant cones of Ōtara. A third cone called Highbrook by pakeha (white/European) settlers and in Maori Te Puke Ariki nui or Te Maunga/mountain of the Great/paramount chief. Mātangi nui was also a Pā site, and the areas surrounding all three cones were thought to represent the densest area of pre-European settlement in East Tāmaki, favoured rich volcanic gardening soils and fresh water springs.
The Mana whenua of Te Rohe o Tara are the local Iwi/Maori people known as Ngāi Tai, also called Ngāti Tai. Ngāi Tai are said to have originated as a distinct iwi identity on the eastern coastline of Auckland shortly after the Tainui canoe/waka called there in about the mid-14th Century. According to Ngāi Tai tradition, Te Puke o Tara and Ōtara are named after the Ariki (Paramount Chief) of Ngāi Tai known as Tara Te Irirangi, who lived from the late 18th Century until 1852. An earlier name applied to the area was Ngā Kopi o Toi (‘The Karaka Berries of Toi’), named for a Karaka grove said by tradition to have been brought to Tāmaki from the Chatham Islands and planted in the vicinity of Greenmount by Toi Te Huatahi.
Over time, with the emergence and expansion of later hapū/sub group of Iwi and iwi identities, Ngāti Tai occupying the area of Tara became closely interlinked by marriages with Te Akitai, Ngāti Tamaoho and Ngāti Kahu of the Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) confederation of tribes known collectively as Te Wai ō Hua, and with the Hauraki Gulf peoples of Ngāti Paoa|Ngāti Pāoa and Ngāti Tamaterā, among others. The Ngāti Pāoa chieftain Hauauru noted in 1851 that by the mid-1830s Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Tamaterā and Te Akitai had competing interests in Ōtara. While all of these groups hold ancestral relationships to the Ōtara area, Ngāi Tai continue to retain recognised mana whenua status.
During the 1830s, Ōtara was among many present-day suburbs of Manukau & Auckland originally included within the boundaries of what became known as the “Tāmaki Block” or “Fairburn Purchase”. Between 1836 and 1839, the newly arrived Church Mission Society (CMS) missionary William Thomas Fairburn began moves to establish a mission station at Maraetai while attempting to purchase a vast tract of land from various iwi of Auckland. Brokered as “an act of Christian peacemaking” between warring tribes on the Tāmaki isthmus, Fairburn obtained “signatures” to the deed of purchase from over 30 Rangatira; few, if any of whom could read or write. Fairburn originally estimated the total area to contain 40,000 acres (160 km2), but it was later surveyed as being around 83,000. When the purchase came under scrutiny from the CMS, in 1837 Fairburn signed a deed promising to return one third of the land to the original inhabitants (a transaction which never took place), and unsuccessfully attempted to offer another third to the Church. Following the Treaty of Waitangi establishing New Zealand as a British Colony in 1840, Fairburn came under investigation from the new Government’s Land Claims Commission. Following a protracted investigation (during which time Fairburn resigned from the mission), in 1848 the Commission disallowed Fairburn’s original claim, awarding him instead a much smaller grant of just under 5,500 acres (22 km2). The remainder of the land, including Ōtara, was retained by the Crown as “surplus land” to be onsold to European settlers. Following the protests of Hori Te Whetuki on behalf of Ngāi Tai, in 1854 the Commission granted a “Native Reservation” of just over 6,000 acres (24 km2) at Umupuia to “the chiefs of the Ngatitai” and paid them £500 compensation, on the condition that they sign an agreement to vacate all other lands within the original purchase boundaries, and order all other iwi to do the same.
European settlement of Ōtara began in earnest from the 1850s onwards, with most settlers of the wider East Tāmaki area being Scottish and Irish Presbyterians. The most prominent settler of Ōtara during this period was the Wesleyan missionary Reverend Gideon Smales. Smales had arrived from England in 1840, and upon his retirement moved to settle at East Tāmaki, purchasing a 400-acre (1.6 km2) block from the Government in 1855, which included Te Puke Ō Tara. Smales farmed the land at the foot of Te Puke Ō Tara and opened a quarry on the mountain; the entirety of which has since been destroyed. Mātanginui Pā was also largely destroyed by quarrying from 1870 onwards and is now the site of the Greenmount Landfill. 13 acres (53,000 m2) from the Smales Mount/Puke Ō Tara estate on the remains of the original cone now form reserve known as Te Puke Ō Tara Hampton Park, which includes a stone church built in the 1860s and the remains of extensive stone walls from Smales’ farm, both constructed from the quarried scoria.
Farming and rural industries remained the dominant characteristic of Ōtara throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Following World War II, Ōtara was developed by the Auckland Regional Authority as a State Housing area.
An Otara timeline from 1955 to 2010
This timeline includes a selection of significant or representative events in the life of Otara over the last 55 years.
- 1955 to 1959
- the 1960s
- the 1970s
- the 1980s
- the 1990s
- 2000 onwards
For further information on these and related events, go to Manukau’s Journey. For a selection of photographs, go to the photographic database Footprints. If you would like to suggest an event for inclusion in this timeline, please contact Bruce Ringer, Team Leader South Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.
The name Otara honours a mythological figure named Tara from Te Akitai traditions, or O-tara-mai-nuku, a once-famous rangatira of the area, or Tara Te Irirangi, a nineteenth century Ngai Tai leader who lived at Umupuia, near Maraetai.
‘Otara’ appears in published sources from the 1850s onwards, referring to an area around the Otara Creek, across the Tamaki River to the south-east of Otahuhu. Otara thus has a long shared history with the neighbouring areas of Papatoetoe, East Tamaki and Flat Bush.
In the 1950s Otara was still largely a rural area. However, it was then chosen as the location for a large State housing development. Otara as defined for planning purposes was a large triangular block of land bordered by the Tamaki River and the Otara Creek to the north, the southern motorway to the west, Springs Road, East Tamaki Road and Preston Road to the east, and Puhinui Road or Boundary Road to the south. It also included the Wymondley Road area to the west of the motorway.
This area later formed the nucleus of Manukau City’s Otara ward, and with some extension to the east, is what is generally referred to as Otara today.
An Otara timeline, 1955-1959
28 September 1955
Farmers and landowners from East Tamaki and Otara meet to discuss the Government’s plans for a major housing development in the rural area to the east of Papatoetoe.
20 December 1955
The Mt Wellington to Redoubt Road stretch of the southern motorway is opened. This includes an interchange at East Tamaki Road.
16 September 1957
The ‘Otara Luxury Cinema’ is opened on the Great South Road to the north of Papatoetoe. (It is renamed the Starlight Cinema in 1975.)
29 March 1958
The Auckland Hospital Board opens a civilian rehabilitation centre in Bairds Road, Otara. (In 1977 the Otara Spinal Unit is also opened there.)
18 June 1958
The ‘Otara Foodtown’ supermarket, also known as the Otahuhu Foodtown, is opened on the Great South Road to the south of Otahuhu. This is New Zealand’s first supermarket.
6 August 1958
Manukau County Council and the Ministry of Works sign a memorandum of understanding over the future development of Otara.
Representatives from Otara sports clubs form the Otara Sports and Social Club to promote recreation and sport in the area.
25 May 1959
Otara No. 1 Primary School opens. The official opening is held on 3 December 1960. (The school is renamed Wymondley Road School in 1969.)
14 September 1959
The Otara PTA (Otara Primary Schools’ Parent Teacher Association) is formed.
20 September 1959
Archbishop Liston opens and blesses St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Otara Road. (The original church is housed in a converted hay barn, but a new church building is opened in 1964.)
6 February 1962
Otara No. 2 School and Otara No. 3 School open. The official opening of Otara No. 2 School as Bairds Road Primary School is held on 20 October 1962, the official opening of Otara No. 3 School as East Tamaki Primary School is held on 10 November 1962.
The East Tamaki Rugby Club is re-formed after several years in recess.
15 April 1962
The first service is held at St Paul’s Methodist church hall in Otara Road. (This has been built by the Papatoetoe Methodist Church for the people of Otara.)
13 October 1962
In the 1962 local body elections, businesswoman Pearl Baker is elected a Manukau County councillor for the newly established Otara Riding. (In 1968 Pearl Baker is elected Manukau City’s first woman deputy-Mayor.)
12 March 1963
Manukau County Council, which has previously been based in Auckland City, meets for the first time at ‘Yendarra’, the former Simpson homestead in Otara Road.
A group of urban designers publicly criticize Otara as a ‘piecemeal development’ that has been undertaken without proper regard to community needs.
4 February 1964
Otara No. 4 School in Flat Bush Road opens. Its official opening as Flat Bush Primary School is held on 5 December 1964.
1 September 1964
Manukau County Council establishes Otara County Town.
Manukau County Council approves an application by Blue Bird Products Ltd (‘Bluebird’) to establish a factory in Lovegrove Crescent, Otara.
11 December 1964
The Otara Anglican Mission District is created, covering the Otara, Flat Bush and East Tamaki areas.
10 April 1965
The official opening is held of Bairds Intermediate School, Otara Road.
3 September 1965
Manukau City is formed by the amalgamation of Manukau County and Manurewa Borough. The Otara ward is one of the wards in the new city.
22 September 1965
The first Otara Amateur Athletic Club is formed.
1 February 1966
Otara College opens (it is later renamed Hillary College).
26 April 1966
Manukau City Council sponsors a meeting to set up an Otara social welfare committee to coordinate the efforts of Government agencies, churches and voluntary organizations in the area.
Work begins on the Fletcher Trust’s 40-acre Otara Industrial Estate on the eastern side of East Tamaki Road.
19 October 1966
The Otara Town Centre’s ‘Official Grand Opening’ is celebrated.
25 January 1967
The Otara Maori Welfare Committee appeals for household implements, furniture, clothes, etc. for ‘near-destitute’ families in the area’s new housing estates.
2 April 1967
St John the Evangelist Catholic Primary School is formally opened.
16 December 1967 The East Tamaki Gymnasium is opened. The building has been jointly funded by Manukau City Council and the East Tamaki athletic and rugby clubs.
8 January 1968
The Otara and Districts Golden Age Club, later renamed the Otara Senior Citizens’ Club, is formed.
1 February 1968
Manukau City Council opens the Otara Court pensioner housing complex.
6 February 1968
Yendarra Primary School opens.
21 December 1968
The first stage of the Otahuhu Power Station, later known as ‘Otahuhu A’, becomes operational.
The New Zealand Maori Business Advancement Society is founded in Otara.
24 March 1969
The Otara Children’s Library is opened, located in an annexe to the Manukau City Council chambers at ‘Yendarra’.
24 May 1969
The Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt, opens two Otara playcentres on the same day: the Otara West Playcentre in Wymondley Road, and the Mayfield Playcentre in Pearl Baker Drive.
21 July 1969
Having closed the Hills Road, Otara, rubbish tip, Manukau City Council opens a new landfill at Greenmount (this later becomes a regional landfill).
3 February 1970
Manukau Technical Institute opens. The official opening ceremony is held on 22 July 1970. (It is renamed Manukau Polytechnic in 1987 and Manukau Institute of Technology in 1995.)
3 February 1970
Otara No. 3 Intermediate School, later renamed Ferguson Intermediate School, opens.
18 June 1970
The Otara Community Development Association is founded.
12 September 1970
The Otara Lions Club launches a project to plant up to 10,000 trees in Otara.
21 October 1970
Flat Bush Kindergarten opens. (This is Otara’s first free kindergarten, followed by Yenadarra in 1972, Clydemore in 1976, Sandbrook and Bairds Road in 1977, and Mayfield in 1984.)
3 April 1971
The first annual Otara Festival is launched.
10 September 1971
Manukau City Council opens the Otara community centre at the northern end of the shopping centre. This incorporates a new branch library and council and community offices.
15 February 1972
A South Auckland branch of CARE (Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality) is formed.
15 April 1972
The first stage of Ngati Otara Marae is opened.
1 August 1972
The Otara Citizens’ Advice Bureau is opened. This is Manukau City’s first CAB.
17 October 1972
The Minister of Housing, Eric Holland, opens the Otara Licensing Trust’s East Tamaki Tavern.
11 August 1973
The Hillary College Environment Committee calls a meeting to discuss the restoration and development of the Otara Creek.
The disused former East Tamaki cheese factory building in Springs Road is demolished.
4 May 1974
Allen’s House, Otara, is opened. This is the first emergency house or women’s refuge established in Manukau City.
8 October 1974
The Social Welfare Department opens a full-time office in Otara.
13 December 1974
The Otara public swimming pool is opened. This is named the Norman Kirk Memorial Pool in honour of the late Prime Minister.
15 July 1975
Prime Minister W.E. Rowling lays the foundation stone of Te Puke O Tara community centre.
3 February 1976
Tangaroa College opens.
9 October 1976
The first ‘Otara fleamarket’ is held at Te Puke O Tara Community Centre.
20 October 1976
Hillary College hosts the inaugural Auckland Secondary Schools’ Maori and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival.
3 October 1977
The IHC opens a preschool and special care centre in Dawson Road. (This is initially housed in relocated buildings, but new buildings are opened on 1 June 1982.)
22 October 1977
The wharenui, Te Wai Ariki, is opened at Whaiora Marae.
1 April 1978
Clover Park Community House, Manukau City Council’s second community house, is officially opened.
The Otara Neighbourhood Schools scheme is launched.
2 November 1979
On an informal visit to Bairds Intermediate School, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon also meets gang members who are employed painting fences under the South Auckland Co-operative Workers’ Workers Scheme.
17 November 1979
Sully Paea and fellow members of the Church of the Nazarene open a youth drop-in centre in East Tamaki Road.
29 January 1980
Otara East Intermediate School, Othello Drive, opens. Its official opening as Clover Park Intermediate School is held on 11 April 1981. (In 1995 Clover Park becomes New Zealand’s first ‘Middle School’.)
Aronui Kokiri school, a Maori arts and craft school and cultural resource centre, opens in Lovegrove Crescent, Otara
The last connection is made in a new 220 kV overhead transmission line between Huntly and Otahuhu. (This is South Auckland’s fifth row of power pylons.)
28 June 1980
Buildings of the former agricultural research centre in Alexander Crescent are blessed prior to the establishment of a Kokiri Agricultural and Practical Skills Centre at the site.
6 August 1980
PPNAC (The Pacific Peoples Anti Nuclear Committee) is formed at Otara.
18 September 1980 A new police patrol base is opened on the corner of Alexander Crescent and Bairds Road.
30 April 1981
AFFCO closes the Southdown freezing works, Otahuhu. More than a thousand full-time and several hundred seasonal workers lose their jobs, including many Otara residents. (This is the first of several large meat works to close in the area.)
14 November 1981
The Otara Creek walkway is officially opened.
21 November 1981
Maori wardens establish a base at the Otara Town Centre.
22 September 1982
The Otara Resource Network is launched.
The first stage of a planned sports complex at Ngati Otara Park is opened, including clubrooms for the Otara athletic and rugby league clubs.
10 September 1983
What becomes known in the media as the ‘Battle of Otara’ begins when a large gang of youths attacks police who have caught a shoplifter at the Otara Town Centre. Several weeks of intermittent violence follow, until the involvement of Maori wardens and community leaders calms the situation.
8 October 1983
Mrs Tupou Manapori is elected a councillor for the Otara ward. She is Manukau City’s first-ever councillor of Pacific Island descent.
2 November 1984
The Minister for Social Welfare, Anne Hercus, officially opens Jim and Rona Gilchrist’s recently extended Youth for Christ emergency home in Awatere Street, Otara.
Soon after ‘bombing’ – large-scale fluorescent graffiti – has becomes a widespread problem in the region, Metro magazine runs an article describing Otara Town Centre as Auckland’s graffiti capital.
Raniera Dan Davis of Otara founds the New Zealand Foreign Legion, later renamed the New Zealand Legionaires, a quasi-military youth training corps.
6 June 1986
Ardijah, a group fronted by Otara-based musicians Ryan and Betty-Anne Monga, first reaches the New Zealand charts with their single, ‘Give Me Your Number’.
3 October 1986
A solvent abuse centre is opened in Cobham Crescent to assist glue sniffers and street kids.
30 April 1988
Weeks of tension between Samoan and Tongan teenagers end in the death of a Tongan youth at the Otara Town Centre. The incident becomes known in the media as the ‘Otara Machete Murder’.
1 June 1988
Manukau City Council launches a five-year, $1.5 million project to enhance and upgrade the Otara Town Centre.
22 July 1988
The Otara Music and Arts Centre (OMAC) is opened. The centre includes a recording studio, performance halls and practice rooms.
The Otara ‘welcome sign’ is unveiled on East Tamaki Road. The rainbow-shaped sign symbolizes the six main ethnic groups in the area: European, Maori, Samoan, Cook Island, Niuean and Tongan.
2 June 1990
The Otara Tongan Methodist church is opened in Ormiston Road, East Tamaki. The dome-shaped building is reminiscent of traditional Tongan structures.
30 January 1991
The Otara Stream Clean-up Project is launched.
1 November 1991
The first stage of a ‘fish canopy’, a symbolic structure designed by well-known Maori architect Rewi Thompson, is dedicated at the Otara Town Centre.
The Otara New World supermarket shuts down. This is the last of the Otara shopping centre’s ‘anchor stores’ to close, Farmers Rendells, Woolworths and Deka all having previously gone.
21 April 1993
Enterprise Otara-Maia Whakaaro is incorporated, a community trust which aims to revitalize the area socially and economically.
7 April 1993
The newly redeveloped DB Waitemata Brewery in Great South Road is opened. (The original building dates back to 1929.)
24 August 1993
New Zealand author Joy Cowley’s picture book, The Day of the Rain, is launched at Chapel Downs Primary School. The book is the first in a series which features the school.
6 November 1993
Taito Phillip Field is first elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for the Otara electorate. He is New Zealand’s first MP of Pacific Island descent.
4 December 1993
Otara’s first official summer kilikiti (‘island cricket’) tournament is held.
19 February 1994
The nation-wide Urban Pacific Soul Street Proud Tour begins. Featured groups include ‘Pacifican Descendants’, ‘Sisters Underground’, and ‘Otara Millionaires Club’, aka OMC.
5 May 1994
Lee Tamahori’s film, Once Were Warriors, is released. The gritty tale of domestic violence and redemption includes scenes set in Otara and features local youngster Shannon Williams as ‘Toots’.
13 December 1994
A government-funded family service centre is opened at Chapel Downs Primary School.
15 May 1995
The Tui Road – Flat Bush Road motorway pedestrian underpass between Otara and Papatoetoe is closed after more than two decades of controversy.
1 November 1995
Sandbrook Kindergarten, which had been closed in May 1994, is reopened in the care of a local community trust.
22 November 1995
Samoan-born photographer Greg Semu’s first solo exhibition begins at the Auckland City Art Gallery. The exhibition includes photos taken at Paulo Suluape’s Otara tattoo studio in 1994
31 October 1996
Te Maungarongo Ki Otara Community Law Centre opens at Whaiora Marae, Otara Road.
8 March 1997
The Otara Recreation and Community Centre is opened. This includes a new auditorium incorporating indoor courts and a stage which has been built to link the existing Norman Kirk Memorial Pool and Te Puke O Tara Community Centre.
23 May 1997
The Minister of Education announces the establishment of the SEMO programme (‘Strengthening Schools in Mangere and Otara’).
30 May 1997
The Pacific Business Trust formally opens its new offices in Bairds Road, Otara.
26 June 1998
Otara Health, a community information, advice and research centre, opens a shop-front office at the Otara Town Centre.
15 September 1998
The documentary ‘Otara: Defying the Odds’ is screened on TV3. This tells the story of seven people who grew up in Otara and have since gone on to success in various fields, including actor Rawiri Paratene, businesswomen Sharon Hunter, and Maori Affairs Minister Tau Henare.
23 April 1999
A dawn ceremony is held to open Nga Kete Wananga, the Manukau Institute of Technology marae. The whare nui, Te Kete Uruuru Matua, features carvings by Ngati Porou master carver Dr Paakariki Harrison.
30 April 2000
Te Irirangi Drive is opened. The $44 million, 7.8 kilometre four-lane arterial route, which links Manukau City Centre with the new Botany Town Centre, is named after the nineteenth century Ngai Tai chief, Tara Te Irirangi.
4 August 2001
Tupu-Dawson Road Youth Library is opened.
4 December 2001
Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate is officially launched, amalgamating Clydemore Primary School, Bairds Intermediate School, and Hillary College. (The new school’s combined facilities are officially opened on 29 May 2004.)
19 December 2002
Manukau City Council imposes a liquor ban at the Otara Town Centre.
19 August 2004
New Zealand’s first Computer Clubhouse Trust is launched at Clover Park Middle School, Otara.
26 May 2006
Fresh Gallery is opened at Otara Town Centre. A partnership between Manukau City Council and the Otara Economic Development Trust, this aims to showcase the work of new and emerging artists.
1 September 2006
The Otara 274 Youth Core project is launched, funding a team of youth workers to help combat gang violence in the area.
29 September 2006
A new police youth action team begins operations targeting youth gang activity in Otara, East Tamaki, Howick, Pakuranga and other eastern parts of the city.
17 April 2007
The Highbrook motorway interchange and Highbrook Drive are opened, allowing direct access from the southern motorway to the Highbrook Business Park in East Tamaki.
9 March 2007
The Highbrook Park recreational reserve on the Waiouru Peninsula, East Tamaki, is officially opened. The 40-hectare park alongside the Tamaki River incorporates the Pukekiwiriki volcanic crater.
13 October 2007
Otara lawyer Len Brown is elected the fourth mayor of Manukau City.
11 October 2008
The new Ormiston Road bridge is officially opened. The innovative cable-stayed $6.5m structure crosses a tributary of the Otara Stream.
Director Michael Bennett begins filming a new feature film, Matariki, set in Otara.
26 November 2009
An event ‘Celebrating Otara in Action’ is held at the Otara Music and Arts Centre, recognizing more than five decades of community initiatives and activism.
31 October 2010
(forthcoming) Manukau City is abolished with the creation of a new enlarged Auckland City.
- Len Brown, Auckland Mayor
- Pauly Fuemana of the duo OMC
- Tau Henare, politician
- Eric Rush, Former All Blacks and 7’s player
- Young Sid, hip-hop artist from the group Smashproof
- Manu Vatuvei, NRL rugby league player
- Ruben Wiki, former Kiwis, Raiders and Warriors player,
- OMC, 1990s band (“Ōtara Millionaires’ Club”)
- Robert Rakete, Radio and Television personality, and The ‘Brown Wiggle’
- Tina Cross, Singer and Entertainer
- Rawiri Paratene, Actor
- Sam Lisone, NRL Player – New Zealand Warriors
Ōtara is the home of the “Ōtara Global Village” developing in the old relocated Baird’s Intermediate school which was moved to the new site of the Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and renamed SEHC Middle School
The Village now houses a Kohanga Reo, a Maori language pre-school, a Koe Oaga Faka Niue – Fatamanu – pre-school, an alternative School for Boys and New Zealand’s first Secondary/Tertiary College – Vaka Moana, an integral part of the Manukau Institute of Technology as well as anumber of Community groups
The suburb achieved a mild degree of worldwide fame with the one-off hit single How Bizarre, by hip-hop artists OMC. “OMC” stands for “Otara Millionaires’ Club” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the low socio-economic status of much of the suburb, Ōtara being one of the poorest parts of the Auckland region – Ōtara North being Auckland Region’s suburb with the second lowest median income, at NZ$25,900 after Great Barrier Island at NZ$25,100, and compared to an average of NZ$37,300 and the highest value of NZ$60,000.
Ōtara is also known for its Saturday morning ‘Flea market’ held in the Ōtara shopping center car park next to Manukau Institute of Technology’s South Campus.
In the 1970s Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s immigration policies led to dawn raids on some Ōtara residents by police in the search for illegal overstayers from the Pacific Islands.
Ōtara long had some of the highest crime rates of the country, but recently a major action against the Tribesmen and Killer Beez gangs (in 2008), and 2010s increases in police force numbers in the area, combined with a community policing approach, have been credited with both reducing crime and establishing less hostile attitudes between the locals and the police.
Ōtara has three main high schools, Tangaroa College, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and Kia Aroha College
Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate consists of three schools. The Junior School catering for Years 1 – 6; the Middle School, Years 7 and 8; and the Senior School catering for Years 9 – 13. Hillary College, Bairds Intermediate and Clydemore Primary School are the three schools that now form Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate.
Kia Aroha College is a Year 7 to 13 secondary school offering a bilingual Maori and Pasifika culturally-based programme.
Ōtara is also home to Manukau Institute of Technology’s two main campuses.
Ōtara has nine primary schools, Bairds Mainfreight Primary School, Dawson Road Primary School, East Tāmaki Primary School, Flat Bush School, Mayfield Primary School, Rongomai School, Saint John the Evangelist School, Wymondley Road School and Yendarra Primary School. Ōtara also has one intermediate school, Ferguson. It is also home to Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Piripono.