Auckland Travel Guide

Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest urban area in New Zealand. It is a conurbation, made up of the administrative cities of Auckland City, Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore. In Maori it bears the name Tamaki Makau Rau or Akarana. Auckland has a variety of bays ideal for swimming, water sports and particularly yachting - hence the nickname 'City of Sails'. It has too a strong pulse and a nautical twinkle in its eye. Its bewitching location on a thin stretch of the North Island, which is surrounded by the Pacific on just about every side, is complemented by the lush subtropical forests of the nearby hills and islands.

Facts in a glance

Area: 16,140 sq km
Population: 1.2 million
Country: New Zealand
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +12 (UTC/GMT)
Telephone Area Code: 09


Maori people are first thought to have settled in the Auckland region approximately 650 years ago. Auckland would seem to have been a highly sought after area due to its rich and fertile land. The name given by the early Maori for the area, 'Tamaki', meaning 'battle', would seem to confirm this.

The earthworks are still visible today on volcanoes such as Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. At the time of European settlement, Ngati Whatua and Tainui were the main tribes living in the area.

1820: Fierce inter-tribal conflict led to there being little organized Maori resistance to European settlement, and by 1840 the British had either beaten or bought out (generally for a few trinkets) the Ngati Whatua tribe.

1840: After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, had the task of choosing a capital for the colony. At the time Kororareka, now called Old Russell, in the Bay of Islands, served as the effective capital. However, Kororareka's geographical position made it very remote, inaccessible and off-centre from the rest of the New Zealand archipelago, and the town had a notorious reputation for drunkenness and immorality.

In the same year Port Nicholson (now called Wellington) probably seemed the obvious choice for an administrative capital. Centrally situated at the south of the North Island, close to the South Island, and growing fast, it had a lot to commend it. But the New Zealand Company and the Wakefield brothers had founded and continued to dominate Port Nicholson. Furthermore, it already had a bad reputation with the Maori for unscrupulous or even illegal occupation of land.

On the initial recommendation of the missionary Henry Williams, supported by the Surveyor General, Felton Mathew, Hobson selected the south side of the Waitemata Harbour as his future capital. The Chief Magistrate, Captain William Cornwallis Symonds, soon purchased the necessary land from the Ngati Whatua owners, and a foundation ceremony took place at 1pm on 18 September 1840, probably on the higher ground at the top end of present-day Queen Street. Hobson named the new settlement in honour of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, a patron and friend of his. The New Zealand Government Gazette announced the royal approval of the name on 26 November 1842.

During the township's early years relations with the Maori seemed quite cordial. Maori, in fact, supplied most of the fresh produce for the township; they traded widely and provided labour for public works and other projects. However despite the treaty, the encroachment of European settlers on Maori land was continuous, leading to a series of skirmishes and conflicts. Barracks were built in Auckland and British troops called up. Most of the fighting took place in Waikato; some, however, occurred on the southern borders of the Auckland region, around Pukekohe and Clevedon. This had a devastating effect on local Maori and many settlers also suffered heavy losses. Maori themselves refer to the land wars of the 1840s to '60s as Te Riri Pakeha, or white man's anger, and claim, as did some European observers of the day, that they were only defending their land and their culture. The result was massive confiscations of land, the ramifications of which are still being addressed today.

Eventually Port Nicholson became the capital and, now known as Wellington, remains so today. The advantages of a central position became even more obvious as the South Island grew in prosperity with the discovery of gold in Otago, and with the development of sheepfarming and refrigeration.

1862: Parliament met for the first time in Wellington. In 1868 the Government House moved there too.

20th century: It was an era of social and economic reform which made New Zealand a world leader in social welfare: the vote for women, the old age pension; a national child welfare program; minimum wages and a 40-hour working week were all brought in.

The country suffered heavily in WWI, with one in every three men aged between 20 and 40 killed or wounded fighting for Britain; and also during the Great Depression and WWII, when war was declared in the Pacific and New Zealand was directly threatened.

The Pacific War also brought many American servicemen to Auckland, whose influence still remains in some quarters. Things began looking up again in the post-war years, especially when Auckland hosted the Empire Games in 1950.

1980: New Zealand declared itself a nuclear free state, causing some friction with the US, whose warships it refused entry, and the French, who were testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific.

1985: French secret service agents sank the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harbour. The '70s and '80s also saw further friction between indigenous and non-indigenous populations with a resurgence of Maori consciousness. The Treaty of Waitangi was revisited, and while race relations remain an issue, Maori culture is now a significant part of the city's self-image.

1998: The downtown area of Auckland received electricity from the supplier Mercury Energy via only four power cables, two of them 40-year old gas-filled cables past their replacement date. One of the cables failed on 20 January, possibly due to the unusually hot and dry conditions, another on 9 February, and due to the increased load from the failure of the first cables, the remaining two failed on 19 and 20 February, leaving the central business district without power.

Queen Street was almost deserted for the first few days, as few businesses could operate. Some brought goods out onto the street to sell, but heavy rain in the first week made that impractical. Generators were brought in from throughout the country to power essential services and some businesses. These made Queen Street a very noisy place and thus deterred customers. Businesses estimated that the outage cost them at least NZD 60 000 per week.

It took five weeks before an emergency cable was completed to restore power. For much of that time, about 60 000 of the 74 000 people who worked in the area in 1998 worked from home, or from relocated offices in the suburbs. Some businesses relocated staff to other New Zealand cities, or even to Australia. Most of the 6000 apartment dwellers in the area had to find alternative accommodation.

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