Papatoetoe was named after the ‘Prince of Wales’ feather (or toitoi), which grew abundantly in the swampy parts of the region. Due to confusion over the spelling, the area was known as Papatoitoi for many years.
Papatoetoe was a popular area for early Maori because of the fertile soil, and its handy location to ‘the portage’, the narrowest point for hauling canoes between the Manukau and Waitamata Harbours.
The first European settlers (predominantly of Scottish and Irish origin) arrived in 1851. Papatoetoe was first declared a District in 1865, and in 1868 a Highway Board was elected for the purposes of local government in the area. The early 1900s saw Papatoetoe develop rapidly.
In 1910, there were 150 houses, compared with 40 recorded at the previous Census, and by 1911 the first road lights were installed at the Kolmar and Great South Road intersection. In 1918 the Town Hall was opened and Papatoetoe business was thriving with over 20 shops operating in the area.
After World War Two, Papatoetoe experienced another burst of development, initiated by the Rehabilitation Scheme, where money was loaned to returned servicemen for building houses. By the 1960s, Papatoetoe had a very youthful population and the need for more recreation facilities was identified.
As a result, the Papatoetoe Centennial Pool was built.
By the 1980s, the area was fully developed and population growth had virtually ceased, however an increase in infill housing in more recent years has seen a slight rise in the population. In 1990, reorganisation of local body government in New Zealand saw Papatoetoe become a Ward within Manukau City, with its Borough Council replaced by a Community Board and Councillor representation.
Today, out of Papatoetoe’s 39,585 residents, the largest ethnic group is European (48%), followed by Pacific People (26%) Asian (20%) and Maori (18%).
About 47% of the working age population is employed as professionals, managers or clerks, and 19% of residents are employed in the manufacturing industry. 21% of residents hold advanced vocational or higher qualifications, with 28% having no formal qualification. Mean and median household income levels are the lowest in the City ($46,301 and $38,769 respectively). Median and mean weekly rent rates are $200 and $196 respectively.