Our History

Founded in 1980, John Paul II High School is a Catholic Year 9-13 co-educational school serving the Westland area. John Paul II High School is the result of years of generosity and work by the Sisters of Mercy, Marist Brothers and Catholic families of the combined parishes the school serves.

Photographic HistoryExcerpts from Marist and Mercy Centennial books

In our Student Foyer is a record of the development of our school. Below is a closeup of each of the photo events and a little about what was happening in the school during that time….

(+) click on any thumbnail to see large view

St Patrick’s School 1875

St Patrick’s school in Alexander St. Lay teachers staffed the school in its early days. In 1882 Sisters of Mercy arrived from Hokitika to staff the school.

1880 Original St Patrick’s school and first Convent of the Sisters of Mercy (opened on November 4, 1882). The convent was named All Saints convent and provided living quarters for the sisters, a school room, music room, and chapel.

All Saints Convent and Schools c1900

Note the extension to the front of the convent as class sizes increased.


Convent with new St Patrick’s School behind

Built to accommodate a growing number of children in the parish and stood until it was demolished following the remodeling of the present St Mary’s block. Original St Columba Hall (left-front) and Marist Brothers’ School (left-rear).

GreymouthComplex Greymouth complex showing first convent with St Patrick’s School behind and St Patrick’s Church at right.
ConventSchoolComplex (1) Convent Schools& Church Complex
John Paul II High School, Marist Brothers House, St Columba Hall, Dean Carew Building,Mons Long Memorial School, Marist Brothers Primary School, St Mary’s School, Convent with Music block, St Patrick’s Presbytery & Church
StPatsChurch St Patrick’s Church & Presbytery, Chapel Street.
John Paul II High School stands in the background. The school’s present name was adopted in 1980 after the amalgamation of St Mary’s High School and the Marist Brothers’ High School.

Convent of the Sisters of Mercy 1930s, Viewed from Tainui St

This convent was opened in May 1926 and housed not only the Sisters of Mercy but St Mary’s boarders as well. The building has since been demolished and on its foundations stands Tai Poutini Polytechnic.


Opening Marist Brothers house, May 1939

The Marist Brothers lived here until the building was sold. The Youth Hostel/Backpackers now occupies the building. Note the bell tower still stands atop the building.


St Columba Hall

The original hall was built as clubrooms for the St Columba Club – a club for young Catholic boys of the parish. Destroyed by fire in 1948 and stood where the present Gym/Hall stands. The present hall was opened in 1951, remodeled in 1991.

LocationMapOldNew Location map showing the original building (in Black) and present day buildings (in Red). Notice that many of today’s buildings are on the site of the originals.

Building the present Marist Block 1959-60

The dental clinic which stood on the site was removed to the site next to St Patrick’s church and extensions to the Marist block began.


Marist Block 1959-60


Technical Building

Opened on May 31st 1942, it was the first Catholic Technical School in NZ. The building was added to in 1959-60.


Dean Carew Memorial School

Built in 1924 to house a growing number of boys, it provided a splendidly equipped secondary department, as well as a primary department. The building was demolished in August 1984.

Excerpts from Marist and Mercy Centennial books

The school was opened on Monday 10 February 1866. Like the church it was dedicated and named after St Patrick. Education was available to children of all denominations and the roll numbered 75 girls and boys; the fee was 2/6 per week for senior pupils and 1/6 for juniors.

Ten years later, in 1876, a new and larger school was built on the present site of the Primary School in Alexander Street because of frequent flooding in the Arney Street area.

On 4 November 1882, the Convent School for girls was opened, and the Sisters of Mercy arrived from Hokitika to staff the School.

It was at the invitation of the Parish Priest at that time, the Rev. Father Dean Carew, through the Most Rev. Dr. J.J. Grimes, S.M., Bishop of Christchurch, that the religious teaching order of the Marist Brothers arrived to take over the education of the boys.  On the 2 September 1890, Dean Carew wrote to the Bishop requesting to draw £250 to pay the outfit and passages of three Marist Brothers to New Zealand. He said that Greymouth was ready for the Brothers as soon as the Bishop could find them.

The first Brothers who arrived to staff the school were Brother Charles (Director) and his assistants, Brothers Coleman and Basil. They arrived from Wellington on the S.S. Mawhera on 29th of July, 1892.

In 1924, thirty-two years later, the School which the Marist Brothers had established and fostered had grown to such proportions that the Catholic Community of Greymouth saw fit to provide a modern school building, and the Dean Carew Memorial School was built. The new school provided a Secondary Department in addition to the Primary Department.

On Sunday, 31 May 1942, the school took another step forward with the construction of the technical building. It was the first Catholic Technical School in New Zealand.

In 1888, St Mary’s presented its first pupils for Junior Civil Service and Matriculation but the roll remained small for some years.   During 1914 and 1915 both boys and girls were educated at St Mary’s Secondary School. By 1959, because of the large school roll, 220 Primary and 110 Secondary pupils, it was necessary to seek the help of at least two lay teachers.

The old school buildings were demolished and the first stage of the new St Mary’s was opened in 1954, with the completion of the hall section in 1960. In 1961 the Monsignor Long Memorial School was built for junior primary pupils.  By the 1970’s, the rolls of the four schools were declining, so they amalgamated into two schools. These are the two present schools – St Patrick’s Primary and John Paul II High School.

As part of integration with the State, the secondary school was upgraded to meet State standards.  This included the Monsignor Long complex being converted to laboratories for secondary use.  The Primary School was rebuilt on the Marist Primary site leaving the original buildings and grounds for the Secondary School. The Mercy Music Suite was built in 1995 to provide a multi-purpose teaching space for the Arts, Religious Education and Drama.  The latest building is the shared library and staffroom opened in 2008.

Sister Teresa Scott and Sister Anne McLaughlin finished working in the school in 2002 but Sister Mary Ellen McGuinness  continues the Mercy presence by donating her time to helping the Literacy Programme in the school. The Sisters main work in Greymouth is working with the underprivileged of the community.  Although the Marist Brothers left Greymouth in 2004, they still have a very active interest in the school, providing leadership training for the Head Students and professional development for Staff.   Brothers working in the Vocations area visit the school as well as the Lay Partnership Director.  The last Marist Brothers to live in Greymouth and  work in the school were Brother Jordan McCormick and Brother Humphrey O’Connor.

“Long after the search for gold had ended, the Church was still reaping the harvests of the faith sown in the early days of the Golden Coast. From the schools established by the pioneer West Coast Catholics came men and women who left their mark on every phase of New Zealand life.  In religion, in politics, on the bench, and in all the professions, descendants of Irishmen came to the Coast for gold, and stayed to found a new province.”