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Kaiapoi facts for kids

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Blackwells in Kaiapoi; demolished after the earthquakes.
Blackwells in Kaiapoi; demolished after the earthquakes.
Country New Zealand
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Waimakariri District
Ward Kaiapoi-Woodend Ward
 • Total 14.36 km2 (5.54 sq mi)
 (June 2023)
 • Total 13,600
 • Density 947/km2 (2,453/sq mi)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu

Kaiapoi is a town in the Waimakariri District of the Canterbury region, in the South Island of New Zealand. The town is located approximately 17 kilometres north of central Christchurch, close to the mouth of the Waimakariri River. It is considered to be a satellite town of Christchurch, although in the Waimakariri for statistical purposes it is part of the Christchurch urban area.

Kaiapoi is known for its substantial precolonial , established by powerful Kāi Tahu nobleman Tūrākautahi. One of the sons of the powerful rangatira Tūāhuriri, Tūrākautahi exerted vast influence over historical Ōtautahi (the site of modern-day Christchurch). His family controlled the pā he established in the area until it was sacked in 1830. The pā was one of the greatest centre of knowledge, economics and natural resources, with a highly complex social structure. All decisions were undertaken by the nobility, who consulted with highly skilled tohunga. In selecting the pā site, Tūrākautahi determined that food (kai) would need to be poi ("swung in"- swung over the pā's protective walls via rope, and also because it lay in the middle of a swamp) from other places. This is how Kaiapoi got its name, and can translated as a metaphor for "economics"

Kaiapoi suffered extensive damage in the 2010 Canterbury and also the February 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, which rendered many homes uninhabitable and businesses inoperable. Large areas were condemned as part of a residential red zone covering uninhabitable


Kaiapoi takes its name from the Māori (fortified village) which was built just north of the site of the current town around the year 1700 by the Ngāi Tahu chief Turakautahi. Eventually to become the largest fortified village in the South Island it lay on the site of a stronghold of an earlier tribe, Waitaha whose history and traditions Ngāi Tahu eventually adopted. Tūrākautahi was the second son of Tūāhuriri, consequently Ngāi Tūāhuriri is the name of the hapu (subtribe) of this area. In selecting the pā site, Tūrākautahi determined that kai (food/resources) would need to be poi (swung in) from other places hence the name Kaiapoi which it is said can be translated as a metaphor for "economics". All manner of resources were transported along the waterways of the Rakahuri and Taerutu on their way to or from Kaiapoi, Pounamu from the Arahura river, Titi (muttonbird) from the islands around Stewart Island / Rakiura or Tūhua (obsidian) from Mayor Island / Tuhua and other resources all indicative of a sophisticated trading network between North and South Island tribes.


Kaiapoi has many facilities and parks for sport and recreation. On the town border is Woodford Glen Speedway, the National Scout headquarters, and the Cure Rowing Club. Kaiapoi is represented by both Rugby codes. The Kaiapoi Rugby Club has its home ground at Kaiapoi Park, and the Northern Bulldogs, who play in the local Canterbury Rugby League have theirs at Murphy Park on the banks of the Kaiapoi River. The Kaiapoi Bulldogs won their first Premiership title in 2007, the club's Jubilee 50th season.

Kaiapoi also boasts the furniture makers Blakeley's (of Kaiapoi), Blackwell's Department Store (demolished after sustaining damage in the September 2010 earthquake), a band rotunda, which has been moved from its former location on the south bank of the river, opposite the Kaiapoi Workingman's Club (where Sir Howard Morrison once performed), to the park opposite, by the red brick Kaiapoi Kindergarten. There is also the Doll's Hospital, Kaiapoi Borough, Kaiapoi North, and Kaiapoi High schools, the berth of the MV Tuhoe, which is more than one hundred years old, and the fact that former Prime Minister Norman Eric Kirk was the mayor of Kaiapoi.

Children used to be born here at the Kaiapoi Home, in Cass Street, opposite the public swimming pool. The oldest church in Canterbury, known as St. Bartholomew's, is here, as well as one large white wooden house, right round the corner from it, in Sewell Street, which used to be the Presbyterian Manse.


Kaiapoi railway station
Kaiapoi railway station after the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake

State Highway 1 bypasses the town to the west via the Christchurch Northern Motorway. Prior to the completion of the motorway in 1967, State Highway 1 ran down the main street of Kaiapoi. A half-hourly bus service connects Kaiapoi to Rangiora and central Christchurch.

The Main North Line railway runs through Kaiapoi, and the town once served as the junction for the Eyreton Branch, which provided rail access to communities west of Kaiapoi such as West Eyreton (though it ran to the north of Eyreton itself). This branch line opened in 1875 and closed fully by April 1965. The old station has a NZHPT Category II listing.

The river used to have a port before the construction of the Waimakariri River bridge, and was an important point for the transport of goods to and from Christchurch. Bucking the trend of river ports dying off in the middle of the 20th century, the port actually reopened for a decade between 1958 and 1967, to allow smaller ships to bypass the congested Lyttelton wharves.

At one stage, a walnut tree on one resident's property, this being the former Presbyterian Manse in Sewell Street, was so large, it was used to act as a landmark for pilots approaching Christchurch International Airport to get their bearings, before being cut down by the owner and his sons.


Kaiapoi is defined by Statistics New Zealand as a medium urban area and covers 14.36 km2 (5.54 sq mi). It had an estimated population of 13,600 as of June 2023, with a population density of 947 people per km2.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 10,602 —    
2013 9,474 −1.59%
2018 11,841 +4.56%

Kaiapoi had a population of 11,841 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 2,367 people (25.0%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 1,239 people (11.7%) since the 2006 census. There were 4,602 households. There were 5,796 males and 6,051 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.96 males per female, with 2,022 people (17.1%) aged under 15 years, 2,217 (18.7%) aged 15 to 29, 5,178 (43.7%) aged 30 to 64, and 2,430 (20.5%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 90.1% European/Pākehā, 11.5% Māori, 2.3% Pacific peoples, 3.4% Asian, and 1.7% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 15.6%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 55.7% had no religion, 33.5% were Christian, 0.5% were Hindu, 0.2% were Muslim, 0.4% were Buddhist and 2.4% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 1,017 (10.4%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 2,544 (25.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 4,893 (49.8%) people were employed full-time, 1,440 (14.7%) were part-time, and 291 (3.0%) were unemployed.

Individual statistical areas in Kaiapoi (2018 census)
SA2 name Population Dwellings Median age Median income
Kaiapoi Central 2,169 972 43.0 years $28,200
Kaiapoi East 279 174 62.3 years $24,100
Kaiapoi North West 2,085 849 41.1 years $28,900
Kaiapoi South 1,827 735 47.1 years $31,200
Kaiapoi West 1,257 492 39.2 years $30,000
Silverstream 819 405 45.7 years $37,100
Sovereign Palms 3,405 1,305 41.6 years $38,600
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800


Kaiapoi has five schools: three primary schools, one high school, and a teen parent unit attached to the high school.

  • Kaiapoi Borough School is a state co-educational full primary school, with 364 students (as of April 2023). The school opened in 1873, making it Kaiapoi's oldest school.
  • Kaiapoi North School is a state co-educational full primary school, with 475 students (as of April 2023). The school opened in 1962.
  • St Patrick's School is a state-integrated co-educational full primary Catholic school, with 127 students (as of April 2023).
  • Kaiapoi High School is a state co-educational secondary school, with 1047 students (as of April 2023). The school opened in 1972.
  • Karanga Mai Young Parents College is the teen parent unit attached to Kaiapoi High School. It opened in 1992.

Notable people

  • Matiaha Tiramorehu (?–1881), Ngāi Tahu tribal leader
  • Jane Thomson (1858–1944), mountaineer born in Kaiapoi
  • Stella Henderson (1871–1962), feminist, university graduate and journalist
  • Henry Boddington (1863–1938), cricketer who played for Nelson and Otago
  • Isabel Button (1863–1921), horse driver, trainer and equestrian
  • Henare Uru (1872–1929), Reform Party politician
  • Thomas Bavin (1874–1941), Premier of New South Wales (born in Kaiapoi)
  • Morgan Williams (1878–1970), Labour Party MP for and mayor of Kaiapoi
  • Algy Whitehead (1885–1961), Anglican priest
  • Bruce Young (1888–1952), baker, policeman, unionist and police commissioner
  • Frank Smith (1893–1975), cricketer
  • Richard Moore (1849–1936), MP for and mayor of Kaiapoi
  • Norman Kirk (1923–1974), mayor of Kaiapoi and later prime minister of New Zealand
  • Azalea Sinclair (born 1930), netballer
  • Ian Shirley (1940–2019), academic
  • Frank Rapley (born 1937), cricketer
  • Sisters Erin Baker (born 1961) and Philippa Baker (born 1963), New Zealand athletes
  • Brian Ford (born 28 August 1970), cricketer
  • Bob Irvine (born 1940), rugby league player

There were at least six test match All Blacks who were born in Kaiapoi, including William Balch, New Zealand teacher, George Maber, who had played for Wellington, Duncan McGregor, who also played league, as well as John Ashworth (rugby union) (born 1949), who played for them, although he had been born in Waikari.

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