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John Barrett and Rex Kerr are this week being inducted into the Ōtaki College Hall of Fame.

In a ceremony at the college on Friday night (December 15), the honours board in the college hall will include their names alongside David Pritchard and Chris Parkin (inducted at the inaugural Hall of Fame function in 2018), and Pete Housiaux and Jackie Sutton (2021).

BACK AT COLLEGE: Rex Kerr, left, and John Barrett at Ōtaki College, where Rex was principal from 1976-1997, and John a student in the early 1960s.

Photo Ōtaki Today

Rex, who was principal of Ōtaki College from 1976-1997, is the first staff member to be honoured.

John was a student at the college from 1961-65, leaving at the age of 16. He says he enjoyed his school days, but was never considered an academic.

“No, there were plenty of kids smarter than me,” he says. “What I do remember is that the teachers were a good bunch of people.”

John’s recognition by the XŌtaki College Alumni Trust, which administers the Hall of Fame, is yet another award for his considerable achievements in the community and the business realm. Last year he was inducted into the Business Kāpiti-Horowhenua (BKH) Hall of Fame.

John is best known for Kāpiti Island Nature Tours, a business he established with sister Amo in 1999. The whānau has lived and farmed on the island for several generations.

The business grew out of a youth development programme John initiated on the island. Parents of the rangatahi wanted to visit, then friends of the parents, and the seed for a tourism venture was sown. John is the managing director of the multi-award-winning business.

He is passionate about nature-based tourism and is a strong advocate of indigenous education.

Among his achievements are: founding trustee of Kāpiti Skills Centre; founding member of Kāpiti Marine Reserve Management Committee; founding member of the Leadership Council of World Indigenous Tourism Alliance; past chair of Te Ara a Maui-Wellington Regional Māori Tourism Alliance, and the NZ Māori Tourism Council; former director of Tourism NZ; past board member of Te Wānanga o Raukawa. He is chair of the Māoriland Charitable Trust, chair of Raukawa Whānau Ora Ltd, and a director of Te Wānanga o Raukawa Foundation.

During Rex’s 21 years as principal of Ōtaki College, he saw the roll peak, in 1985, to 680 students (it now has about 450). He introduced te reo Māori into the college curriculum.

Rex was president of the Rāhui Rugby Club for 10 years, and has been patron since 2014. He wrote extensively about Ōtaki’s history, with books on the Ōtaki railway station, the Ōtaki River, the RSA, the Ōtaki Scholar and Ōtaki’s prominent early citizens. He contributed several historical articles for Ōtaki Today and the Ōtaki Historical Journal.





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John, Rex in college Hall of Fame


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