Kaitaia, the principal centre of the northern part of Northland, is situated in the valley of the Awanui River. This river empties into the Rangaunu Harbour 10 miles north of Kaitaia, and the surrounding land is flat to gently undulating. Five miles west of Kaitaia is Ahipara Bay, the southern part of Ninety Mile Beach. Kaitaia is 4½ miles south by road from Awanui, its small river port and airport; 45 miles north-west of Okaihau, the nearest railhead; and 103 miles north-west of Whangarei, the nearest large centre.
Kaitaia is a shopping and servicing centre for a predominantly dairy farming district, with sheep farming in the hilly areas south of the town. The district is generally fertile. Former swamp land and land once worked for kauri gum have been reclaimed, but some land still requires to be brought into production. Important local industries are the processing of dairy produce, sawmilling, and lime production. General engineering, the manufacture of concrete products, joinery and woodwork are the main industries of the town.
Originally Kaitaia was a Maori village reached by canoe from Rangaunu Harbour via the Awanui River. In 1833 W. G. Puckey, a lay worker of the Church Missionary Society at the Bay of Islands, established a mission station there. The Anglican Church of St. Saviour's was built in 1843. The timber and kauri gum industries and the good farming land around Kaitaia, combined with the port facilities at Awanui, resulted in the gradual establishment of Kaitaia as the centre for the district. In 1922 Kaitaia became a town district, and on 1 September was constituted a borough.
The meaning of the name is obscure.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,799; 1956 census, 2,358; 1961 census, 2,704.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.