Auckland is remarkable for the diversity of its peoples and landscapes. The region lies between two coastlines, east and west. Along the eastern side, sandy bays edge the shore from the Firth of Thames northwards to Pākiri. The western coast stretches from the sandy Āwhitu peninsula up to the shallow mudflats of the Kaipara Harbour.
Among the region’s Māori names is Tāmaki-makau-rau (Tāmaki of a hundred lovers), referring to the lure of the waterways and fertile soil of the Auckland isthmus.
New Zealand’s metropolis
In 2013 one in three New Zealanders (1.42 million) lived in the Auckland region. Auckland is both city and region. In 2010 a single council was established to manage the entire region. It replaced seven city and district councils, and a regional council.
Auckland is the engine room of the national economy, and the site of the country’s busiest port and airport. The region’s size, its job opportunities and casual lifestyle attract people from other parts of New Zealand.
A melting pot
Auckland is the gateway for immigrants, and over one-third of its population were born overseas. Waves of immigrants have settled in particular areas, and helped shape local cultures. Europeans dominate rural areas, but in the central city over half of the population is Asian. West and South Auckland have large Pacific and Māori communities. Auckland’s openness to outside influences creates a buoyant culture.
Free and easy
Novelist Janet Frame commented on the unconstrained nature of Auckland plants and people:
‘[T]he seasons in Auckland are not as tuned to many of the spring flowers, they’re haphazard seasons with summer the supreme commander. Spring is personal –your peach tree and mine do not blossom at the same time; our freesias and daffodils live in different seasons. This undisciplined autonomy of vegetation is reflected in the uncontrolled growth of the city and suburbs, and is shown in the people as a freedom of mood and impulse which would horrify the souls of many South Islanders restricted by their absolute boundaries of frost.’ 1
Looking at Auckland
From the summit of Maungawhau (Mt Eden), 18th-century Māori would have looked down from palisaded terraces to kūmara (sweet potato) gardens, bracken and mānuka. In the 2010s the view north is framed by the Sky Tower and high-rise buildings of the central city. The harbour bridge and the wide expanse of the upper Waitematā Harbour lie to the north-west, with the elegant cone of Rangitoto Island and the islands of the inner Hauraki Gulf to the north-east. On a clear day the fainter shapes of Little Barrier (Hauturu) and Great Barrier (Aotea) islands and the Coromandel Peninsula shimmer in the distance.
To the west, the mouth of Manukau Harbour is hidden between the high sand dunes of the Āwhitu peninsula to the south and the Waitākere Ranges to the north.
South of Maungawhau is the iconic summit of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and its obelisk. Dense factories edge the eastern arm of the Manukau Harbour, with the smoke of Glenbrook steel mills on the southern shore. In the distant south are the Hūnua Ranges and the Bombay Hills – the cultural borderline between Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.
Suburban sprawl dominates the Auckland landscape, punctuated with parks, trees and grassy volcanic cones. Farmland survives in the outlying areas of Rodney, Clevedon and Franklin, where commuter lifestyle blocks link the countryside with the metropolis.