Our History


Mr Peter Iverson

Founding Principal 1975 - 2001

Wairau Valley Special School

"There is no child born who cannot learn.

You are the teacher - find a way."


Wairau Valley Special School History

Who are we and how did we get here.

Wairau Valley Special School began as an offshoot of Kingswood School - a small school in Northcote behind the IHC. The only trained staff member was the principal for 5 years. The then department of education decided to build a 4-classroom school behind Glenfield Intermediate. It was called Glenfield IHC School and ran from Hillside Road up to the back gate of the intermediate. Peter Iverson opened the new school in 1975 and the core of its students had Down Syndrome and physical disabilities.

Some of the students remained at Kingswood School but many moved to Glenfield IHC School.

A new name was considered after a physically disabled student named George Walmsley said we are in Wairau. After discussing that Wairau means lots of water, George said, “Why don’t we call it Wairau Valley?” and so the name was born.

The majority of staff were untrained and as they retired or left, trained teachers were appointed.

A criteria was introduced to be able to attend a special school. Those who did not meet the criteria attended North Shore IHC developmental center. One of the criteria was toilet training and the IQ of prospective students needed to be 50 or more.

Between 1975 and 1980, parents felt their children were missing out on an education. Additional teachers were seconded to work with children at the IHC center. Jean van der Nett was one of the first teachers appointed at WVSS. Teachers were quite difficult to appoint at that time.

Denise Iverson was appointed to the position of ? and worked at WVSS for 10 years.

The education act of 1989 ensured all children could attend their local school. The IHC center at Northcote was closed and all the children came to WVSS. At the same time Mangere Psychopaedic Hospital closed. All these children went home or to a ward at North Shore Hospital. The needs of these children were very different so the education department set up additional classes with a ratio of 2 staff to 6 children - 1 teacher, 1 teacher aide and 6 students. Some of these students had never been to school and were adults. Most of these students were wheelchair users.

Equipment was non-existent in those days - no physiotherapists, no occupational therapists or speech language therapists. It was a fight to get any therapists but Mr Iverson managed to secure a physiotherapist for a few hours a week.

It was very different teaching in those days, most students were very frail.

A swimming pool was added in the early 1990’s and was donated by Rotary. It was a highlight for staff and students, even Mr Iverson the founding principal ended up in the pool in his suit and tie.

Lots of fundraising happened in those days for equipment, vans and other essentials. Rotary have always been supportive of our school - from then to now.

The first satellites of WVSS were at Sunnybrae Normal School. These developed further as our student population changed.

Mr Iverson was always very keen to give the students experiences such as camping and if a student was too frail to go camping, then the school would have an overnight camp at school.

Mr Iverson ensured that students were treated to experiences to ensure they did not miss out. He felt they were entitled to be treated as normal as possible.

There was a close knit relationship between the other special schools. The principals who were mostly men worked collaboratively to ensure the students had play therapies to support them. They believed strongly that education was a right for every child.

Mr Iverson always said “There is no child born who cannot learn. You are the teacher - find a way.”

WVSS lost a great advocate for the special needs school community when Mr Peter Iverson retired in December 2001.

Area History

Around the 1960s, 450 acres in the Wairau Valley was zoned for light and heavy industry by the two controlling local bodies, Waitemata County Council and the Takapuna City Council. The valley was by the early 1970s the largest area of industry on the North Shore, with only 100 acres remaining undeveloped. Not only did the Wairau Valley have available land zoned for industry, it was also close to the Auckland market, and to the burgeoning suburbs of the North Shore, where there was a steadily growing labour force and expanding market. Zoning changes in other parts of the North Shore further encouraged the drift to the valley. These factors attracted small North Shore businesses that had outgrown their original locations, as well as larger central Auckland companies wanting to tap into the increasingly large North Shore market. Businesses like Morgan Brothers upholsterers and chairmakers, which had started business in Auckland in 1945 before moving to Northcote four years later, made the move to the Wairau Valley due to rezoning problems.

The North Shore was blessed with an abundance of clay suitable for brickmaking, and a number of brickyards would become part of the North Shore landscape during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Substantial clay deposits formed during the Miocene and Pleistocene periods were found in Devonport, Bayswater, the southern area of Takapuna and the Barrys Point Road area, as well as at Northcote, Birkenhead and the Wairau Valley. In Glenfield, two brickworks were established in the 1920s. Charlie Smart established a brickmaking yard in Wairau Road opposite Archers Road. In 1960 Winstones established their North Shore branch there, to take advantage of local demand for their building products. Although by the early 1970s the Auckland urban area was the main market for goods produced at Wairau Valley enterprises, some products were also being sold throughout the country and beyond. The area attracted national and international firms seeking opportunities to establish a local branch close to the substantial Auckland consumer market and the transport links offered by the port, rail and roading networks emanating from Auckland City. During the latter years of the 1970s work began on a 70 acre industrial estate off Sunset Road in Mairangi Bay after the Takapuna City Council zoned the land for industry. Neil Construction, who spearheaded the development, originally planned to build housing on the site, but the Takapuna City Council felt that the land was better suited to industry. With land for such activity now scarce at Barrys Point Road and Wairau Valley, there was a clear need for the development of a new industrial area. The Sunset Road location was considered well suited to this purpose, being close to the motorway. Development of the estate continued through the 1980s and the planned motorway linking the area to West Auckland no doubt added to its attractions.

The district's first official name was Freemans after John Freeman, who established a post office bureau in his home on the corner of Glenfield and Kaipatiki Roads in 1888. It was commonly referred to as Mayfield because the white blossom of the manuka and kanuka trees reminded settlers of May springtime ‘back home’ in England. The existence of Mayfield in Canterbury meant that the name was never officially bestowed upon the area by the postal service. On 12 March 1912, the area was renamed Glenfield by the postal service. The name Mayfield lives on in Mayfield Road, a quiet side road several hundred meters north of the Glenfield shops. Prior to the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959, Glenfield primarily consisted of farmland. During the 1960s, as access to the area improved, many of the large farm properties were subdivided to provide space for residential development. On 9 December 1971, in response to fears about commercial sprawl down the length of Glenfield Rd, Glenfield Mall opened. It was among the earliest enclosed malls in the country. It featured a large aviary in the centre of the mall. In 2000, Glenfield Mall was completely redeveloped as Westfield Glenfield, but in 2015 reverted to its original name.