Okato means sweeping of the tide. Okato was derived (as so many names are) from an incident in history. Many generations ago a great tidal wave swept the coast causing loss of life and destruction of villages accompanied by a cyclonic storm carrying its ravages inland. A lament recited by Taramotu, of Puniho giving details of the great calamity called Matakawaka that swept the Taranaki coast line 160 -180 years ago when fishing fleets were lost and plantations ashore. The recital notes the tragedy, suicide from grief and warnings from Tohunga. To purify the area the Tohunga had land cleared and Kumara ready to plant and offered to the Gods for appeasement. 

Ōkato is one of the three surviving northern Taranaki military settlements established in the 1860s (along with Urenui and Lepperton). The Stony River (Hangataahua), which arises in the Ahukawakawa Swamp in Egmont National Park, flows past the western side of Ōkato. Blue Rātā Reserve on the banks of the river is home to a unique variety of northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta) which begins its life as a true tree. 

Our school has a long history providing education to the district in varying forms for many years.  It has been an Area School since 2005.  Prior to this it was the site of Okato Districts High School/ Okato College and the Primary students in Years 0-6 were taught in a separate school on a site across the road.