Otekaike Special School/Campbell Park School

Dates: 1908-1995


This residential school for ‘feeble-minded’ boys opened in 1908. It was located on 342 acres of land, plus homestead, in the Waitaki Valley. It was formerly part of the large estate of Robert Campbell, which had been purchased by the government and divided into 60 smaller farms. The portion which became Otekaike Special School was handed over to the Education Department. In 1925 it moved to the jurisdiction of the newly formed Child Welfare Division. It was renamed Campbell Park School in 1964. When the Department of Social Welfare was formed in 1972, Otekaike remained with the Department of Education.

This was a national institution, and was the first measure taken by the government to cater for the special education of developmentally delayed children. An equivalent school for girls opened at Richmond in 1916. In 1917 the Otekaike School was divided into two sections – boys 14 years and over remained at the school for vocational training while younger boys went to a separate institution in Nelson. This proved unsuccessful, and in 1921 the younger boys returned to Otekaike.

Other national institutions for children with developmental problems opened in the 1920s – boys with more severe problems were moved to Templeton Farm School (established in 1929) while Nelson had a home for the most seriously disabled. Otekaike catered for those considered most “educable”. There were about 200 boys living at the school in the 1930s, but by the 1940s numbers dropped to just over 100. When the government departments reorganised in 1972 the farm training area of the school was closed. By the 1980s most boys at the school were aged between 9 and 16 years, and had an average stay of about two years. Most came from the North Island. The school closed in 1995.