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The Kāpiti Coast (formerly known as The Golden Coast) is the name of the section of the coast of the south-western North Island of New Zealand that is north of Wellington and opposite Kāpiti Island. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Wellington Regional Council.
The Kapiti Coast District stretches from Paekakariki in the south through Otaki in the north. It includes the towns of Te Horo, Waikanae, Paraparaumu, Raumati Beach, Otaki, and Raumati South, and smaller localities such as Emerald Glen, Lindale, Maungakotukutuku, Otaihanga, and Peka Peka. Along the thin coastal plains at the foot of the Tararua Range, the Kapiti Coast in common parlance occasionally includes the neighbouring areas south to Plimmerton to the north of Porirua Harbour, and in the north includes some of the coastal areas of Horowhenua such as Waikawa Beach and even Hokio Beach, close to Lake Horowhenua. The district extends inland to the top of the Tararua Range, whereas in the public perception the inland hill country is rarely considered as part of the coast. Kapiti is possibly most famous for its island, Kapiti Island. Most of the island is a pest-free bird sanctuary, where a permit is required to visit.
Māori chief Te Rauparaha established a base on Kapiti Island, and from this position, he was able to launch attacks on other tribes during the Musket Wars of the early 19th century. Around this time, Europeans began whaling in the area, and on 16 October 1839, William Wakefield of the New Zealand Company arrived in the Kapiti region to purchase land for permanent European settlement. Te Rauparaha sold him land in the Nelson and Golden Bay area.
European settlement of the Kapiti Coast only took place on a significant scale after the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company (WMR) opened its railway line from Wellington to Longburn, just south of Palmerston North. The line was opened in 1886, with the final spike driven in on the Kapiti Coast at Otaihanga. Paekakariki was quickly established as a significant steam locomotive depot due to the need to swap locomotives at the location; powerful, heavy locomotives were required to handle trains over the rugged section from Wellington to Paekakariki, while lighter, faster locomotives were more suited to the relatively flat terrain north of Paekakariki. In 1908, the WMR was purchased by the New Zealand Railways Department, who incorporated the line into the North Island Main Trunk Railway.
In June 1940, the Wellington-Paekakariki section was electrified as electric locomotives provided better motive power. This meant trains would swap from steam (and later diesel-electric) to electric traction in Paekakariki and it retained its status as a significant locomotive depot. It also became the northern terminus of the Wellington commuter railway network until 8 May 1983, when it was extended to Paraparaumu. In February 2011 electrification reached Waikanae, which became the new terminus.
During World War II, Queen Elizabeth Park – a large tract of parkland between Raumati South and Paekakariki – was the location of two United States Army and Marines camps, McKay and Russell. US troops were stationed at the camps in 1942–44 prior to being sent into combat in the Pacific Ocean theatre.
After World War II, Wellington's Rongotai Airport was closed due to safety reasons in 1947 and Kapiti Coast Airport became the main airport for the Wellington Region. In 1949, it was New Zealand's busiest airport and helped to stimulate growth on the Kapiti Coast. The Wellington International Airport was opened in 1959 and Paraparaumu Airport never regained its status, with some of its land sold for residential development in the 1990s and 2000. It is now used for minor commercial activity such as that of airline Air2there, helicopter and light aircraft training and for private and hobby flights.
Recently, the Kapiti Coast has seen a significant population surge and is one of New Zealand's fastest growing areas. This has led to considerable growth in all towns apart from Paekakariki, where development is geographically limited.
The Kapiti Coast is well known for its cheeses and other products from Lindale.
Many of the Kapiti Coast's residents are not employed in the area. Instead, they commute to jobs in Wellington. Tranz Metro operates electric commuter trains along a portion of the North Island Main Trunk Railway referred to as the Kapiti Line, and its Capital Connection commuter train from Palmerston North to Wellington provides a service for commuters north of the electric terminus in Waikanae.
Film and television
The Kapiti Coast area has also made appearances in television and film. Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame) is from Pukerua Bay and went to high school at Kapiti College in Raumati Beach. Scenes from both of the aforementioned movies have been filmed on the Kapiti Coast. During the filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, some of the seminal battle scenes in the fields in front of Minas Tirith were shot in part at Queen Elizabeth Park. Kapiti Island figured in King Kong with the scenes approaching the lost island of King Kong shot in the waters between Raumati Beach and the island.
Andrew Niccol, a screenwriter and film producer, was born in Paraparaumu. He has written and produced (or co-produced) a number of movies, including Gattaca, The Truman Show, S1m0ne and Lord of War. Also from Paraparaumu is young actor James Ashcroft who has acted in numerous TV productions, including occasional appearances in Battlestar Galactica.
Kapiti has been represented in rugby league by the Kapiti Bears – Kapiti Coast Rugby League Club Inc. The Club was founded in the 1970s and was the home of Kiwi and Melbourne Storm player Stephen Kearney. The Kapiti Bears operate out of Matthews Park, Menin Road, and are affiliated with the Wellington Rugby League Association.
- Otaki-Māori Racing Club is New Zealand's only Māori racing club; it was formed in 1886, and holds eight race meetings annually.
- New Zealand artist Shona Moller has her studio and gallery located on Paraparaumu Beach.
- Queen Elizabeth Park contains the Wellington Tramway Museum and a number of coastal walking tracks. It also hosts orienteering events.
- Paekakariki Station Museum is Administered by the Paekakariki Station Precinct Trust. The museum has displays of local Maori and Heritage items along with sections devoted to Railways and the US Marines occupation of the McKays Crossing area during World War II. Free Admission but donations are greatly appreciated. Facilities include toilets and wheelchair access. Morning and Afternoon teas can be arranged for special occasions and Group Visits. Located in the Historic Paekakariki Railway Station Building on the main platform.
- Steam Incorporated, a railway preservation society, is based in the Paekakariki Railway Yard. Steam Inc.'s depot, known as "The Engine Shed", where locomotives and rolling stock are restored and displayed, and the society is also one of the few operators of steam-hauled excursions on New Zealand's national railway network.
- One of the Southern Hemisphere's largest car collections is at the Southward Car Museum in Otaihanga, and a popular ridable miniature railway operates in Raumati Marine Gardens.