Story: Auckland places

Page 11. Western suburbs: Ponsonby to Hillsborough

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Freemans Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn

Group of 19th-century suburbs on the western edge of the CBD. During the early 1900s the housing stock deteriorated and the suburbs became working-class slums. Freemans Bay was the most disreputable and industrialised. From the 1950s, many of its decaying cottages were replaced with flats and townhouses in urban renewal schemes. This included a large area of public housing, some of which was privatised in the 1990s.

Catholic heart

Ponsonby is sited along a ridge above Freemans Bay. Its northern border merges with St Mary’s Bay and Herne Bay; its southern boundary with Grey Lynn. A large area around New Street became the heart of Catholic Auckland when Bishop Pompallier bought land in 1853 and built convents, a school and the Bishop’s residence.


The area has seen dramatic changes. Run-down villas and workers’ cottages were rented in the 1950s and 1960s by Māori and Pacific Island immigrants. Many were forced out from the 1970s, when gentrification transformed Ponsonby – and later much of Freemans Bay and Grey Lynn – into high-income communities. Ponsonby is now renowned for its fashionable cafés and upmarket boutiques.

The Gluepot

The Gluepot tavern was Ponsonby’s most celebrated pub. Its name is thought to have been coined by local women whose husbands were routinely ‘stuck’ there drinking. In the 1970s it became a popular music venue, hosting well-known local bands such as Hello Sailor, Toy Love, and the Headless Chickens. Mick Jagger and Peter Garrett also played there. During his performance Garrett leapt high into the air, knocking a hole in the ceiling with his head. In the mid-1990s the Gluepot was closed and converted into shops and apartments.

Mt Eden, Sandringham, Mt Albert

Middle-income suburbs in the centre of the Auckland isthmus. Initially scrub and then farmland, the area was more densely settled with the development of tramway suburbs in the late 19th century. Maungawhau/Mt Eden’s deep crater and spectacular views from the summit attract a million visitors a year. The top third of Mt Albert’s Ōwairaka was excavated for roading and railway-line ballast. 

Point Chevalier, Western Springs, Avondale

Inner western working-class suburbs. Point Chevalier grew slowly until small bungalows constructed by ‘spec’ (speculator) development covered the peninsula in the 1920s. Waterview, to the west, was created as a state-house suburb from 1944 to 1947.

The high property prices in central suburbs like Ponsonby have pushed middle-class home-owners out to Point Chevalier, increasing property values. Nearby are the Auckland Zoo, the Museum of Transport and Technology, and Western Springs, bought by the City Council as a water supply in 1877 and later developed as a park and Western Springs Stadium. The old suburb of Avondale is known for its racecourse and large industrial park. From the 1980s many Māori and Pacific Island people settled in the community.

Mt Roskill, Lynfield, Hillsborough

Formerly an area of swamp, quarries and scrubland, Mt Roskill was developed after 1945 as a major state housing suburb. It merges into tracts of low-cost private housing in neighbouring New Windsor, Blockhouse Bay, Lynfield and Three Kings; larger homes in Waikōwhai and Hillsborough border Manukau Harbour. Under Keith Hay, a developer and conservative Presbyterian mayor from 1953 to 1974, Mt Roskill became known as the ‘Bible belt’. Recent immigrants from Asia and the Pacific have increased the area’s diversity.

How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure, 'Auckland places - Western suburbs: Ponsonby to Hillsborough', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 July 2024)

Story by Margaret McClure, published 6 Dec 2007, updated 5 Aug 2016