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Kapiti Coast - a magnet for people
An interview with Alan Milne, Mayor of Kapiti Coast District

Dorothy - 04/03/05

What draws people to the Kapiti Coast?
The population of the Kapiti Coast District is growing by 2% per annum. The people moving there often come from large cities drawn by the warmer temperatures, the more relaxed lifestyle, the good community services and the opportunities for recreation. Alan Milne, the Mayor of the district, moved from Wellington to Paraparaumu 32 years ago, and he and his wife Mary are happy that they chose to put down roots on the Kapiti Coast. Visitors are especially attracted by the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, the Southwards Car Museum, the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course, the Rangiatea Church and Otaki Maori University , Te Wananga o Raukawa.

What is the Kapiti Coast?
It is a series of small communities about 50 km north of Wellington City, the capital city of New Zealand. These communities are strung out along the west coast and astride the main north trunk railway running from Wellington to Auckland. Most of them owe their origin to that railway line being established. Following the rail came people who cut down trees and became farmers, and later it became a holiday destination for people from Wellington, the Manawatu, and the Wairarapa.

Probably about 1950 it really began to develop as a commuter area for Wellington city and today provides about eight thousand people on a daily basis who work in that city. With that change has come a change from baches and cottages, many built of ex World War II materials, to the substantial homes that you see in the Kapiti Coast today .

In the south the first community that you meet is Paekakariki which was an area where the electric trains running from Wellington northwards ceased and steam took over with a run to Auckland. It is a small community of about 1800 people, and according to the Mayor there is very little prospect of significant growth there.

The view from Paekakariki Hill lookout
The view from Paekakariki Hill lookout
Photo source Kapiti Coast District Council
Click here to view a larger version

From the lookout on Paekakariki Hill there is an interesting view north along the coast. The main road runs through the trees parallel to the beach, then crosses over and can be seen on the right beside the trees. Paekakariki is in the foreground and Paraparaumu Beach is on the point in the distance.

Further north are the communities of Raumati, Paraparaumu and Waikanae, and these communities make up the area which has seen enormous growth over the last twenty years. Many of the people here are white collar workers in Wellington city, or else are involved in the service industries, including tourism, retail and all the support services associated with a thriving building industry.

Beyond these communities to the north is the community of Otaki, situated on the Otaki River. It is a market gardening centre for Wellington, with a number of Chinese families growing produce, particularly vegetables, for the Wellington market. Otaki has also been the centre of a strong concrete pre-casting industry.

Who are the new residents on the Kapiti Coast and what draws them?
The population of the Kapiti Coast now stands at about 46,000 people. It is growing at the rate of about 1,000 a year (which is about 2% annual growth) and a lot of this results from the migration of older people nearing retirement age in the cities to the south and coming to Kapiti because the climate is about two degrees warmer, the lifestyle is more relaxed, and most of the essential needs of residents can be met from its shops, its fine new library, its entertainment and its recreational opportunities.

Paraparaumu Library  with the cafe in the foreground
Paraparaumu Library with the cafe in the foreground
Photo source Kapiti Coast District Council
Click here to view a larger version

The area is strong in recreation. The bowling clubs are flourishing. There are strong golf clubs and very successful golf courses including Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course which the professional players have rated as one of the top one hundred golf courses in the world.

The ninth hole at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club
The ninth hole at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club
Photo source Kapiti Coast District Council
Click here to view a larger version

The Kapiti Coast is also a mecca for boaties wanting to fish in the shelter of Kapiti Island. The island has its own marine reserve and there are opportunities for fishing particularly for blue cod and crayfish, and it is a popular spot for diving.

"The area is also important for younger people with families, and we find that a number of families come back into the area because there are very good secondary educational facilities with three good colleges - Kapiti College in Raumati, Paraparaumu College and Otaki College," said Alan. There is limited tertiary education at the Whitireia Campus.

Kapiti icons
"The area has some icons," said the Mayor, with justifiable pride. "Internationally we have two icons - Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and Southwards Motor Museum."

Kapiti Island ranks very highly as a nature reserve on a world scale.

Looking from Otaki Beach toward Kapiti Island
Looking from Otaki Beach toward Kapiti Island
Photo source Kapiti Coast District Council
Click here to view a larger version

Alan talked about the reserve. "Over the last ten years successful efforts have been made to eradicate rats and opossums, with the result that the vegetation is now flourishing and the bird life now thrives. It is a popular spot for visiting which is by permit only.

"The requirement for permits is principally to ensure that the maximum number of fifty visitors per day is not exceeded. Anyone wanting to visit the island should apply to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for a permit. Visitors need to take their own food and bring out their rubbish leaving only their footprints. Remember to wear sensible footwear and take a waterproof coat.

"Trips to the island leave around 9 am and return in the middle of the afternoon, giving visitors three to four hours on the island. If the weather conditions are unsuitable the trip is cancelled.

"On arrival visitors are met by a representative of DOC who gives a talk about the history of the island and the birdlife. Many visitors accept the challenge of the climb to the top of the 500 metre high island with its great vantage points at the top. On the way you will see weka, a native bird a little like the common fowl but brown, and you will also see kaka, a native parrot, takahe a large flightless green and blue bird with an impressive red beak which was long thought to be extinct, and some are even lucky enough to see a kiwi on the path. Mary, the Mayoress, was one of those lucky people when she was escorting American visitors to Kapiti Island."

Southwards Motor Museum
This museum was established twenty five years ago by the late Sir Leonard Southward. It is a remarkable collection of around two hundred vintage and not-so-vintage motor vehicles, mostly in an excellent state of repair. These were collected by Sir Leonard Southward from 1956 when he collected his first car. This museum is considered the largest in the southern hemisphere and is a very significant attraction for overseas visitors as well as New Zealanders.

Is Maori culture strong in the Kapiti area?
This area has long been a centre of Maori culture, particularly since the arrival of Te Rauparaha in 1822.

Rangiatea church
Otaki is the site of the Rangiatea church. Octavius Hadfield, who died in December 1904, was an Anglican missionary who became an Archbishop. He played an enormous role in the conversion of Maori to Christianity, and Te Rauparaha was among his converts. The Rangiatea church was built with the help of Te Rauparaha in the days of Sir George Grey in the 1840s.

Unfortunately it was burnt down about ten years ago, but it has now been completely rebuilt as an almost identical replica of the original building. It was very fortuitous that a comprehensive set of professional photographs had been taken of the interior of the building not long before the disaster and this has made it possible for the replica to be built. This is not only a fine building, but also a sign of the cooperation between Maori and European at Otaki.

Rangiatea Church in Otaki
Rangiatea Church in Otaki
Photo source Kapiti Coast District Council
Click here to view a larger version

Te Wananga o Raukawa Otaki
The Otaki Maori University , Te Wananga o Raukawa, in March 2005 has a roll of 2,000+ students, most of them Maori, and is growing fast.

An essential component of any diploma or degree from this university is a requirement to spend time researching the iwi that is the tribe, or the hapu that is the family, of the student, so that each student comes out of the university with a greater understanding of their beginnings and their own history.

What are the main visitor attractions in Kapiti?

  • Kapiti Island
  • Southwards Museum
  • Rangiatea Church
  • Nga Manu wildlife reserve at Waikanae
  • Steam Incorporated at Paekakariki with steam engines and excursion trains
  • Tram rides at Queen Elizabeth Park between Paekakariki and Ruamati
  • Lindale Tourist Shopping Precinct to view live farm animals or purchase quality goods - olive related products, art works, glassware. honey, knitwear and sheep skin clothing

If you are adventurous there are opportunities to get into the Tararua Ranges, particularly from Reikorangi and Otaki Forks.

Where do visitors to Kapiti Coast stay?
Right along the district there are motels ranging from very high quality to the easily affordable, and many homestay options ranging up to some of the best in the country. There are camping grounds and caravan parks at Paekakariki, Lindale and Otaki. The area does not have a typical New Zealand city hotel but there are a large number of restaurants and eating houses.

Do visit Kapiti Coast and experience for yourself the attractions of this area.

Kapiti Coast District Council website is


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