Waikanae is a peaceful settlement of about 15,000 people on the banks of the Waikanae River. It was awarded 'Top Small Town' in New Zealand for 2008 by 'North & South' Magazine.
The predominant group in the population are retired people, some of whom live in the four retirement village complexes (all of which are equipped for convalescent care). There is also a growing number of families moving into Waikanae and Many Wellington people have holiday homes here.
It's known for good whitebaiting, safe beaches, warm climate, and the Nga Manu Wildlife Sanctuary.
The town is in four distinct parts: the beach, the garden area, the village, adjoining Hemi Matenga reserve, and the hills at Reikorangi. Busy State Highway One (22,500 vehicles per day) and the main trunk railway bisect the urban area.
Waikanae is physically separated from Paraparaumu by the river and a general aversion to using the highway. Despite the towns having been amalgamated by local government boundary changes in 1989, there remains fairly strong animosity, particularly towards Paraparaumu because that is where the district council HQ is located.
Waikanae is experiencing growing pains, as it becomes increasingly a dormitory area servicing employment in the south. The established locals don' t like the faster pace of life that comes with urban growth.
The local Te Ati Awa Maori tribe has its marae complex adjacent to the village shopping area. It is called Whakarongotai ("Listen to the voice of the tides"), and was originally the home of the highly respected tribal chief Wi (Wiremu) Parata.
The tribe has a long-standing right to take funeral processions across the highway and railway intersection to the cemetery at the Anglican church on the other side. This right was secured in 1884 as part of an agreement by Wi Parata, a substantial sheepfarmer, when he convinced the tribe of the economic benefits of allowing the Manawatu-Wellington railway line through.
The tribe allowed the railway freely through their lands (a distance of seven miles), in exchange for a Post Office being established, and the right of way for funeral processions. The original Post Office remains nearby (it is now a museum) and set in the decorative stone wall separating the shops from the highway, is the funeral gate which leads to the marae entrance.