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Auckland, New Zeland

October 16th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

The Auckland Metropolitan Area, or Greater Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest urban area in New Zealand. With over 1.2 million people it has almost a third of the country's population.

It is a conurbation, made up of Auckland City (excluding the Hauraki Gulf islands), North Shore City, and the urban parts of Waitakere and Manukau cities, along with Papakura District and some nearby urban parts of Rodney and Franklin Districts. In Māori it bears the traditional name Tāmaki Makau Rau or the transcribed version of Auckland, Ākarana.

Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate bodies of water.

Tāmaki Makau Rau (isthmus of one thousand lovers), now known as Auckland, was first settled by Māori people around 1350. The region was valued for its rich and fertile land. Māori constructed terraced pa (fortified villages) on the volcanic peaks. Māori population is estimated to have peaked at 20,000 in the region in pre-settlement times, a figure which would later qualify in New Zealand as a city. Earthworks are still evident today around some of the larger volcanoes such as Mount Albert, Mount Eden and One Tree Hill.

The isthmus, around 8 kilometres wide with Mount Eden and One Tree Hill at its narrowest point, led to the area having great strategic qualities. The isthmus also has the highly productive soils providing agricultural opportunities, and the two harbours providing diverse kai moana (seafood).

Ngāti Whātua and Tainui were the main tribes traditionally living in the area. The arrival of Europeans, using guns as one of many trade commodities, changed the balance of power between iwi with the inevitable result of armed conflict. European settlement caused Māori numbers in what is now central Auckland city to be greatly reduced due to inter-iwi warfare, new diseases (especially smallpox and tuberculosis), and the common ills experienced by indigenous peoples from colonisation. There was a period of migrations of both Europeans and Māori, one of the initial appeals of the area to Europeans being its low indigenous population.

Āpihai Te Kawau (c. 1760-1869), leader of the Ngati Taou Hapu, was a good friend of Samuel Marsden. Over a ten-month period in 1821-1822 he conducted a principal part in the 1,000 mile Amiowhenua expedition. This series of battles raged through much of the central and southern North Island. It ended when Te Kawau's Ngāti Whātua forces, uniting with the Taranaki they were embattled with, jointly defended the Tainui Matakitaki pa from Hongi Hika's Ngapuhi forces.

By 1840 Te Kawau had become the paramount chief of Ngāti Whātua. Cautious of reprisals from the Nga Puhi defeated at Matakitaki, Te Kawau found it most convenient to offer Governor Hobson land around the present central city. He and six other chiefs travelled to the Bay of Islands to make the offer and signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 20 March.

Ngāti Whātua would certainly have expected from English colonialism increased security and trading benefits. This would include greater access via the quickly developed port facilities for the lucrative trade in produce grown in Tainui's fertile Waikato and Hauraki Plains for the Australian prison colonies and Sydney market. The sale price for the initial 3,000 acres (12 km²) was for cash and goods to the value of £341.

As Māori population declined for nearly a century, so did the quantity of land held by Ngāti Whātua. Within 20 years, 40% of their lands were lost, some through government land confiscation. At close to the lowest level of population, Ngāti Whātua land holding was reduced to a few acres at Orakei, land which Te Kawau had declared "a last stand".

Birth of Auckland

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840 the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, had the task of choosing a capital for the colony. At the time, the main European settlements were in the Bay of Islands. However, the Bay of Islands' geographical position made it very remote, inaccessible and off-centre from the rest of the New Zealand archipelago.

Even in 1840 Port Nicholson (now Wellington Harbour) 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 Māori for unscrupulous or even illegal occupation of land.

On the initial recommendation of the missionary Henry Williams, supported by the Surveyor General, Felton Mathew, and the offer of land from Ngāti Whātua, Hobson selected the south side of Waitemata Harbour as his future capital, while setting up a temporary capital at Okiato (also known now as Old Russell) in the Bay of Islands. The Chief Magistrate, Captain William Cornwallis Symonds, soon purchased the further land from Ngāti Whātua, 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 royal approval of the name on 26 November 1842.

From the outset a steady flow of new arrivals from within New Zealand and from overseas came to the new capital. Initially settlers from New South Wales predominated, but the first immigrant ships sailing directly from Britain started to arrive as early as 1842. From early times the eastern side of the settlement remained reserved for government officials while mechanics and artisans, the so-called "unofficial" settlers, congregated on the western side. This social division still persists somewhat in modern Auckland, with the eastern suburbs generally being more upscale.

Auckland was the seat of Auckland Province from 1853 until the abolition of provinces in 1876.

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 sheep farming and refrigeration, especially refrigerated ships which allowed chilled meat to be safely shipped to Britain. Parliament met for the first time in Wellington in 1862. In 1868 Government House moved there too.

Auckland formed a base for Governor George Grey's operations against the Māori King Movement in the early 1860s. Grey's modus operandi involved opening up the Waikato and King Country by building roads, most notably Great South Road, (a large part of which now forms State Highway 1). This enabled rapid movement, not only of soldiers, but also civilian settlers. It also enabled the extension of Pākehā influence and law to the South Auckland region. Auckland grew fairly rapidly, from 1,500 in 1841 to 12,423 by 1864, with most growth occurring in close proximity to the port area in Commercial Bay, as well as some small developments towards Onehunga (another port), and at a few favoured spots beside the harbour. During the mid 19th century, European settlement of New Zealand was predominantly in the South Island. Auckland however gradually became the commercial capital. Market gardens were planted on the outskirts, while kauri tree logging and gum digging opened up the Waitakere Ranges.

Throughout the 19th century Auckland’s intense urban growth concentrated around the port in a very similar manner to most other mercantile cities. At this time Auckland experienced many of the pollution and overcrowding problems that plagued other 19th century cities, although as primarily a port rather than a manufacturing centre it avoided large-scale industrialisation, and by 1900, Auckland was the largest New Zealand city. The overcrowding of the inner city had by then created a strong demand for the city to expand, which was made possible when trams appeared in New Zealand around this time, supported by ferry services, mostly to what would become North Shore City.

A Russian scare at the end of the 19th century had caused coastal guns to be bought and fortifications built, notably at Devonport and on Waiheke Island, where they can still be seen.

While trams and railway lines shaped Aucklands rapid extension in the early first half of the 20th century, they were soon overtaken by motor vehicles, with Auckland boasting one of the highest car-ownership rates of the world even before WW II. Their growing popularity meant that urban development was freed from narrow corridors, and could occur anywhere new roads were built, leading to a rapid decentralisation, with urban growth spreading all over the Isthmus. In 1959 the new Auckland Harbour Bridge linked North Shore with the city, further extending its reach.

In World War II the city was overflown by a Japanese seaplane, chased ineffectually by a Royal New Zealand Air Force De Havilland Tiger Moth. Again, coastal fortifications were built or extended, with a large military base on Rangitoto storing mines supposed to block the inner Hauraki Gulf in the event of an impending Japanese invasion, which in the end never came to pass.

Following the initiative of Michael Joseph Savage's New Zealand Labour Party large numbers of state houses were constructed through the late 1930s, '40s and '50s, usually on quarter-acre (1,000 m²) sections - a tradition that survives despite frequent subdivision. To this day, a large percentage of the houses in Auckland only have one full story. Due to these factors, Auckland is a largely suburban, low-density city: although it has not much more than a seventh of the population of London, it sprawls over a considerably larger area - a fact that serves to make public transport by Auckland's rail and bus systems unpopular and uneconomic.

All four electrical power cables supplying the Central Business District failed on 20 February 1998, causing the 1998 Auckland power crisis. It took five weeks before an emergency overhead cable was completed to restore the power supply to the Central Business District. For much of that time, about 60,000 of the 74,000 people who worked in the area worked from home or from relocated offices in the suburbs. Many of the 6,000 apartment dwellers in the area had to find alternative accommodation. Mercury Energy, operators of the cable that failed, had to spend many millions of dollars on the temporary cable, and compensation for local businesses.

The 2006 Auckland Blackout showcased the fact that Aucklands power-supply infrastructure is still very vulnerable to disruption. A faulty powerline shackle caused a short-circuit at the Otahuhu substation, with the blackout affecting wide parts of the conurbation, including the CBD, but sparing most of Waitakere City and North Shore City. While the blackout lasted only about half a day, it reignited political pressure aiming to improve the national electricity grid.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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