The Kāpiti Coast District has a long and diverse history.
The following timeline of the history of the Kāpiti District is compiled with significant assistance from historian Anthony Dreaver:
Pre 1822 - Muaūpoko iwi lived on rich marine, coastal, wetland and forest resources.
1822-24 - Te Rauparaha led Ngāti Toa iwi from Kāwhia to escape the danger of musket wars in the Waikato/King Country region. When Muaūpoko tried to assassinate him, he established Kāpiti Island as his fortress and took terrible revenge on them.
1825-28 - Te Rauparaha's allies migrated to the region: Ngāti Raukawa of Waikato moved to Manawatū/Horowhenua and Te Āti Awa of Taranaki to south of Ōtaki River. Traders from Australia sold muskets to Māori in exchange for dressed flax.
1829-32 - Ngāti Toa and their allies invaded and subdued the northern half of Te Wai Pounamu (South Island), as well as the southern North Island.
1833-47 - Shore whalers, mainly from Australia, set up stations along the coast and offshore islands, often intermarrying with Māori. After 1842, Wellington merchants controlled the trade in oil and bone until it collapsed around 1847.
1834-40 - The tribal alliance was twice disrupted by the wars of Haowhenua (1834, Te Horo area) and Kuititanga (1839, around the mouth of the Waikanae River), but each time peace was restored. From the mid-1830s, a Christian teacher, Ripahau, had growing influence in the area.
1839 - Te Rauparaha's son and nephew travelled to the Bay of Islands, to request a missionary teacher. The New Zealand Company's leader, William Wakefield, landed at Paraparaumu Beach to deal in land for settlement. Shortly after, Rev. Octavius Hadfield set up a mission station at Kenakena Pā near the Waikanae river mouth.
1840 - Hobson annexed New Zealand. Māori Chiefs of the three Kāpiti tribes signed the Treaty of Waitangi at the following locations: on board the ship Ariel at Port Nicholson (29 April 1840), Queen Charlotte Sounds (4 May 1840), Kāpiti Island (14 May 1840), Waikanae (16 May 1840), Ōtaki (19 May 1840), Manawatū (26 May 1840), Motungarara Island (4 June 1840), Guards Bay and Cloudy Bay/Te Koko-o-Kupe in Te Tau Ihu (17 June 1840), Mana Island (19 June 1840), and again on Kāpiti Island (19 June 1840).
1840s - British settlers arrived at Wellington and Whanganui. A Wellington to Whanganui overland mail service was established in 1842, linking the few European settlers and missionaries. Hadfield built Anglican churches at Waikanae (1843) and Ōtaki (Rangiātea, 1849). Father Comte set up a Roman Catholic mission at Ōtaki (1844), where St Mary's Church was built (1859). Christianity, literacy and farming spread rapidly among Māori of the region.
1846-48 - Disputes over land sales in Hutt Valley led to a brief war. Police were stationed at Waikanae under Major Durie and troops built a road over Paekākāriki Hill. Ferry inns to accommodate travellers were built at the mouths of the Waikanae and Ōtaki rivers. An earthquake damaged Kenakena Pā and Church. Many Te Āti Awa returned to Taranaki.
1850s to 1870s - Some sheep farms, both Māori and Pakeha, were established from Paekākāriki to the Manawatū River. Māori and Pakeha traded produce to Wellington using the beach as a highway. Small coastal vessels carried goods and passengers from the estuaries of the Waikanae, Ōtaki and Waikawa Rivers. From 1866 a regular coach service operated with Ōtaki and Paekākāriki as centres for inns, trade and mail. A church school for Māori children opened at Ōtaki in 1849 and Ōtaki State School in 1880.
1876 - The Provincial system of government was replaced by local bodies. Waikanae River was the boundary between Hutt and Manawatū counties until 1885, when the Horowhenua Riding of Manawatū became a separate county.
1880s - The Government had bought much Māori land along a proposed railway route, but handed it over to the Wellington & Manawatū Railway Company which built and operated the line. It opened for business between Wellington and Longburn in 1886.
1886-1906 - Wiremu Parata, who had given land for the railway, moved the Te Āti Awa village to the Township of Parata (modern Waikanae). The adjacent Māori land (Ngarara Block) was opened for sale as village and farmland.
1886 - Ōtaki Māori Racing Club established.
1887-96 - Sales of railway company land at Shannon and Tokomaru (1887), Paraparaumu, Ōtaki, Te Horo and Levin (1888), and Ohau and Manakau (1889). Sawmillers and farmers cleared bush and villages were established. Between 1886-96, schools opened at Paekākāriki, Paraparaumu, Waikanae and Reikorangi.
1897 - Kāpiti Island Reserve Act reserved all Crown-owned portions of the island, which became New Zealand's leading bird sanctuary. Pests remained a problem until eradicated during the 1990s.
1900-1906 - A through road was completed, with bridges over the Waikanae (1901) and Ōtaki (1902) Rivers.
1890-1930 - Sawmillers cut timber from the lowlands (to 1900), the foothills (to 1920) and the mountain valleys (to the 1970s). Dairying became dominant, with factories at Paraparaumu, Te Horo and Ōtaki. Horticulture flourished around Ōtaki.
From 1906 - Railway excursions brought city holiday makers to the coast. Boarding houses and hotels flourished. Entrepreneurs laid out seaside resorts at Rangiuru (1896), Raumati Beach (1908) and Paraparaumu Beach, Raumati South and Ōtaki Beach (1920s).
1939-50 - During the War the area grew vegetables for the armed services and supplied the extensive US Marine camps at MacKay's Crossing. Centennial Highway (Pukerua Bay to Paekākāriki) and Paraparaumu airfield were both opened in 1940. Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club was established in 1949. (NZ Golf Open first hosted 1959).
1950s - Paraparaumu was Wellington's airport for passengers and freight. Ōtaki Borough (1921-89) promoted secondary industry. Paraparaumu acquired basic professional, commercial and service occupations. The Kāpiti District Trust, a Rotary intiative, was established in 1957 to care for the needs of local elderly people without significant personal resources.
1960-75 - Economic and population growth were rapid. City commuters travelled daily by bus to Paekākāriki and by electric train unit to Wellington. Farms were broken up for housing in Paraparaumu township, Paraparaumu Beach and North Beach. Building and related trades flourished. Coastlands shopping centre and Te Roto industrial park were developed. From 1953 to 1983, 12 schools opened, including two colleges. Kāpiti District Trust opened Marire Home (1962) and Sevenoaks retirement communities.
1960-89 - Local bodies proliferated: Paekākāriki County Town (1960-89), Paraparaumu County Town (1967-74), Kāpiti Borough (1974-89, chambers built in 1976), Waikanae County Town (1969-89). From 1974 to 1989 Kāpiti was part of Horowhenua United Council.
1975-89 - Slower growth in the late-1970s was tackled in several ways. Kāpiti Coast Promotion Council attracted investors, Kāpiti Borough Council took on a major works programme and the suburban railway system was electrified to Paraparaumu. Commerce and industry grew at Waikanae and Ōtaki
1975-1999 - New tourist facilities included: Steam Incorporated, Paekākāriki (1972); Nga Manu Nature Reserve (1974); Southward's Car Museum (1979); Lindale Centre; Ōtaki Gorge outdoor recreation; Paekākāriki Station Museum (1995); Museum of Aviation (1995); Kāpiti Museum (Waikanae); and Kāpiti Four x 4 Adventures (1999).
1984 - Kāpiti Cheeses Ltd. established. The annual Kāpiti Women's Triathlon was first run.
1989 - Kāpiti Coast District Council was established, incorporating Waikanae and Ōtaki. A District Plan was drawn up to guide rural and urban growth.
1990s - Population growth was among the highest in New Zealand. Several retirement villages were built. New library opened at Ōtaki (1998). Pak 'n Save Kāpiti, currently the district's largest employer, was established in 1991. Retail sales in the district exceed $100 million for the quarter ended December 1995. The Kāpiti Community Health Group Trust formed with a focus on providing support and advocacy on health matters.
2000s - Capital value of the Kāpiti Coast District exceeds $4billion in 2003. New library at Paraparaumu opened 2002. Midlands Gardens retirement community opened by the Kāpiti District Trust.