Although there was earlier European interest in Tasman Bay, the first recorded entry into Kaiteriteri was by Captain Arthur Wakefield in October 1841 when searching for a suitable permanent settlement for New Zealand Company settlers.
Kaiteriteri also featured in Wakefield’s diary when a korero was held with local chiefs to discuss Nelson land purchases and reach agreement on payment and reserves.
Terms included the protection of tāngata whenua settlements, cultivations and wāhi tapu and the reservation of one-tenth of all land used for the Nelson settlement to be held in trust for the benefit of the original Maori owners and their families.
This land became known as the Tenths Reserves. Kaiteriteri has considerable historic significance as the first meeting place between tāngata whenua and representatives of the New Zealand Company whose sole purpose was to colonise a ’new’ country.
Although not all of the four iwi who are the tāngata whenua of Western Te Tau Ihu lived at Kaiteriteri in the 1840s, the area is culturally and historically significant to all of the iwi because it was the birthplace of the Tenths Reserves.
All lands of the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve and Kaka Point Historic Reserve are of historic and cultural importance to tāngata whenua.
Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa Ki Te Tau Ihu (Te Ātiawa) are the mana whenua iwi of Kaiteriteri. Ngāti Tama Ki Te Tau Ihu (Ngāti Tama) have an association with Kaiteriteri through participation in significant events. Ngāti Apa have an historical relationship with Kaiteriteri from prior to 1827.
In 1916, farmer Syd Rowling, bought 136 acres of thick gorse covered land at Kaiteriteri as an extension to his orchard property in Riwaka. By the early 1920s the road from Nelson was getting closer and despite last sections of tracks through the mudflats, holiday makers began arriving by horse & cart and boat to enjoy Kaiteriteri’s golden sand and beautiful bay. Initially Syd hired out tent sites for only four shillings a week but as it became more popular, he set aside 12 hectares near the beach as public domain land.
On 28th January 1936, the future of Kaiteriteri as a holiday destination was confirmed in a public meeting where Syd Rowling was nominated as the first chairman of the new Kaiteriteri Domain Board and was joined by half a dozen other prominent local people. The Board commenced the set-up of better camping arrangements, such as boundaries, clean water, toilets, and even a public phone.
During the 1930’s Great Depression, the Government used the available labour to finish the road from Riwaka to Kaiteriteri which finally eased the long journey across the mudflats at low tide.
Today, the beach, estuary and 250ha land around Kaiteriteri is all classified as Recreation Reserve and is managed by the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Board which celebrated its 80th birthday in 2016.
The Board is proudly responsible for all the commercial, conservation, natural and historic features that makes Kaiteriteri such a unique destination.