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One of the principal towns of North Canterbury, 19 km north of Christchurch. The site of the large Ngāi Tahu pā, Kaiapoi, is 11 km north of the town. Built in the 1700s, it was besieged and sacked in 1831–32 by the forces of Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha. The town developed in the 1850s on Kaiapoi Island, between the south and north branches of the Waimakariri River. Subsequent river works have channelled the river south of the town. Kaiapoi was a busy port in the 1860s. After the railway reached Kaiapoi in 1872, the port remained in intermittent use until 1967.

Meaning of place name
Kaiapoi is the shortened name for Te Kōhaka-a-Kaikai-a-Waro - a pā established by Tūrākautahi, the son of Tūāhuriri and one of the principal rangatira who led the Ngāi Tūāhuriri migration to Canterbury. It became a major Ngāi Tahu trading centre and stronghold.

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