Story: Auckland region

Page 10. Expansion: 1941–1979

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From 1942 the American entry into the Second World War (1939–45) turned Auckland into a training and supply base for the Pacific theatre of the war, boosting market gardening in Pukekohe and Franklin. Airfields were built at Whenuapai/Hobsonville, and the city’s first hamburger bar appeared.

Manufacturing hub

Local manufacturing was aided by restrictions on imports. As Auckland grew, many New Zealand companies moved their factories there, to be closer to workers and markets. New export industries furthered the region’s dominance. The huge paper and pulp mills north of Taupō sent products through Auckland’s port. New Zealand Steel chose Glenbrook in South Auckland – close to ironsands and transport routes – as the site for the country’s only steelworks, opened in 1969.

City lights

Novelist Maurice Gee described the allure of Auckland for those on its outskirts: ‘Westward the ranges. Naked beaches on the other side; mile-long combers crashing in. Auckland city lay in the east; opulence and commerce, bright lights, sin.’ 1


Auckland’s population growth was fuelled by the post-war baby boom and immigration. Jet flights and the opening of Māngere International Airport in 1965 confirmed Auckland’s status as New Zealand’s main gateway.

There was an increasing trend for overseas migrants to arrive in Auckland and go no further. New British immigrants made up almost 20% of North Shore residents, while many Dutch and Yugoslav arrivals settled in West Auckland.


At the same time thousands of young Māori migrated from Northland and the Bay of Plenty, drawn to the bright lights and high wages. Their growing presence led to the establishment of several urban marae (New Zealand’s first was at Māngere in 1965), and activist groups such as Ngā Tamatoa (the young warriors) at the University of Auckland.

In central-city suburbs like Ponsonby and Parnell, Māori were joined by newcomers from the Cook Islands, Samoa, Niue and Tonga. Most found employment in the region’s burgeoning industries, including New Lynn’s extensive Crown Lynn potteries. Auckland soon became the largest Polynesian city in the world.

K for cool

Melani Anae describes Karangahape Road in the 1960s: ‘K. Rd, despite its questionable reputation, used to be regarded as a mecca by Pacific people … K. Rd used to be “the place to be”, especially on a Thursday late shopping night when hordes of Pacific young people and elders used to arrive, to shop, talk, meet, hang out with mates, in true Pacific fashion’. 2

Urban sprawl

Auckland’s landscape was transformed in the post-war years. Factories moved out to rural land in Penrose, Rosebank Peninsula and South Auckland. New low-cost housing followed the growth of industries. The most dramatic changes were in South Auckland, where state housing dominated the landscape.

In the 1970s slum clearance and gentrification of the inner city ousted large numbers of Māori and Pacific Island factory workers, who moved to blue-collar suburbs like Te Atatū and Ōtara.

With Aucklanders unwilling to give up suburban space for apartment life, housing spread from Ōrewa to Bombay and Kumeū to Beachlands, and the central city became a desert at night. Attempts to limit the sprawl were fruitless.

Love of cars

Auckland’s sprawl fostered the belief that those without cars were socially deprived. By 1953 the north-west and southern motorways provided major routes in and out of the city. The motorway system was extended after 1955, when the government and Auckland City Council rejected a light-rail alternative. The linchpin was the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Completed in 1959, it opened the North Shore to new suburban development. The number of cars rose and fewer Aucklanders took public transport, creating chronic traffic congestion.

  1. Maurice Gee, Going west. London: Viking, 1992, p. 2. › Back
  2. Melani Anae, ‘From kava to coffee: the browning of Auckland.’ In Almighty Auckland?, edited by Ian Carter and others. Palmerston North: Dunmore, 2004, p. 90. › Back
How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure, 'Auckland region - Expansion: 1941–1979', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2024)

Story by Margaret McClure, published 6 Dec 2007, updated 1 Aug 2016