This day, in 1969, Coastlands Shoppingtown, in Paraparaumu, opened its doors for the first time, with 21 shops and 6180 m2 retail space.

Fifty years later, Coastlands now has over 100 shops and covers an area of over 49,000m2 retail space.

It started with a vision in 1963 by one man to build a shopping mall in Kāpiti, which was at the time, a set of small, sleepy seaside communities. Accountant Ray Spackman, known as Mr Coastlands, bought the land in 1963 where the mall now sits.

After a visit to Australia to investigate their new shopping centres, Ray returned convinced that malls were the way of the future, even though there were none in New Zealand at the time.

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What followed was a five-year campaign with the support of eight other local visionaries to turn Coastlands Shoppingtown into reality.

There were many obstacles, not least trying to convince the financial institutions of the time to invest in Paraparaumu.

"It's hard to imagine now how much a leap of faith the whole venture was for what was basically a small group of local businessmen who believed 'if we build it, they will come'," said the late Bruce Mansell, who at the time worked for Spackman's accountancy firm, and succeeded him as managing director of Coastlands in 1987.

Paraparaumu, at the time, was a town of around 5000 people and the Coastlands' site was an overgrown farm covered in pine trees and scrub.

As well as finding investors, the group had to battle local government, which was then Hutt City Council, to get the subdivision approved.

When Coastlands opened, it was described by a newspaper as "the day the whole district has been waiting for".

It was a game-changer for the Kāpiti Coast which has been one of the fastest growing districts in the country since, now with a population of more than 53,000.

The past 50 years have seen continued growth and development of the mall, and many firsts including being one of the first shopping centres to trade on Saturdays, making Coastlands a mecca for shoppers all over the Wellington region.

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In 1982, a unique partnership was formed between Coastlands Shopping Town and the Ngahina Trust who each have a 50 per cent stake in the land south of the Wharemauku Stream.

This allowed for further development of Coastlands.

Part of Coastland's arrangement with the trust was that the land would never be sold, and the trust could regard it as their ancestral land forever, which is important to both parties. Buildings on the expanded site, named Ngahina Arcade, include Pak'nSave and The Warehouse.

$150 million investment

The $150 million investment in developments over 50 years, including Takiri House which opened in 2018, has firmly secured Coastlands as the centre of the Kāpiti Coast.

"At the heart of the Coastlands developments is the hope to create a space in the community where people can work, connect, shop and play while enjoying pleasant surroundings," said Richard Mansell, chief executive, who followed in his father's footsteps managing Coastlands, after his father's death in January 2013.

"It is something we continue to develop."

Coastlands continues to look forward and is planning its next developments – a second Takiri House, and an exciting plan to create a landscaped eatery area around the Wharemauku Stream.

Changing face of retail

The retail landscape has changed considerably over the past five decades.

In 1969, in keeping with other shopping areas at the time, the majority of shops in Coastlands were independent and included Karetta Coffee Lounge, Joleen Coiffure Boutique, Gay Petite Baby Wear, Kronfield Hardware and Hickmott Gifts.

Today, almost all the stores are national chains or franchised stores seen all over the country with the large scale format stores, the Warehouse, Countdown, Pak'nSave and Farmers forming the cornerstones.

Retailers recognise the difference between Coastlands and bigger mall management companies, the benefits of direct relationships between retailer and management. Jon Vanderpeet took ownership of Stirling Sports two years ago and says there is no other mall he would deal with.

"Coastlands are incredibly supportive of emerging businesses.

"Being able to talk directly to Coastlands management is the most important thing to me, it keeps me here."

Health for Life has been a Coastlands tenant for over 20 years.

Director Chris Torr echoes these views, "We love trading in Coastlands because, unlike other malls in New Zealand, it is locally owned and operated and strongly supports the local community.

"We are so fortunate to have a mall that reflects local values and provides a pleasant place to shop, meet and relax."

Largest employer on the coast

Many young people on the Kāpiti Coast had their first taste of work at Coastlands, either as part timers or through college work days.

For some, this led to long retail careers, such as Glen Taylor who worked at Woolworths for Kāpiti College work day, then went on to manage the store at Coastlands, finally becoming an owner of Kapiti Pak'nSave with Peter Anderson. They sold the store to a new owner last year.

For others, working at Coastlands was much longer term. Bill Maclean worked at Farmers for 25 years and also Meurig Lewis who worked at Hannahs for the same amount of time.

Thousands of staff are currently employed by the 100 plus stores making it the largest source of employment on the coast.

Supporting the community

Unlike other shopping malls in New Zealand, Coastlands is firmly part of the community that has grown around it.

Ever since Coastlands opened on November 6, 1969, the directors have recognised that its success depended on the community who shopped there.

Early on, Coastlands sponsored local clubs, groups, schools, charities, community facilities and events, and has continued to contribute for 50 years. Over the past 15 years alone, Coastlands has given $4 million in sponsorship.

Looking towards Coastlands, November 2019.
Looking towards Coastlands, November 2019.

"As a significant business in Kāpiti, we have always felt a strong community connection right from the early days, and are proud of the fact that many of our sponsorships have been in place for many years," Richard said.

"As an example, we have been ribbon day sponsors for Paraparaumu Track and Field Club for well over 30 years."

Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan recognised the significant contribution Coastlands has made to the community.

"Not many businesses in Kāpiti can claim half-a-century of not only commercial success but also a solid history of social capital contribution to community wellbeing.

"Over the years, they have been significant financial contributors backing a range of facilities including the Coastlands Aquatic Centre, hockey and netball facilities and more recently, the fabulous Kāpiti College Performing Arts Centre.

"Coastlands have also been the go-to sponsors for numerous event organisers, clubs, schools and charities.

"On behalf of our Kāpiti communities, thank you Coastlands."

Supporting local suppliers

Wherever possible, Coastlands use local contractors and suppliers.

Peter Jackson Plumbing has been the preferred supplier for Coastlands for 18 years.

Company director Sonya Jackson said, "We appreciate Coastlands' dedication to using local companies, and suppliers for the maintenance, and upgrade of the many buildings in Coastlands.

"We enjoy working alongside such an integral part of the community, in not only providing the huge amount of business and job opportunities, but with the philanthropist nature Coastlands has."

Coastlands thanks the community

To thank the community for shopping at Coastlands over the last 50 years, they are holding a street party this Saturday from 4pm to 9pm in their carpark. Featuring five hours of music, 15 food trucks and free bouncy castle, Coastlands will be having one of the biggest party's ever on the Kāpiti Coast.

Parking is available at Kāpiti Primary School, and road closures will be in place for the event.

— written by Jennie Gutry