Alfred Buckland was born at Newton Abbot, Devon, England, probably on 17 December 1825, and was baptised on 12 January 1826. He was the fifth son of John Buckland, a broker, and his wife, Elizabeth Mortimore. Alfred married Eliza Wallen at Stoke Damerel, Devon, on 26 May 1850. She died in Auckland, New Zealand, on 12 July 1866, and on 15 May 1867 Alfred married Matilda Jane Frodsham. A notable progenitor, he had seven daughters and three sons with his first wife and seven daughters and four sons with his second wife. He died in Auckland on 12 June 1903.
Alfred Buckland arrived at Auckland on the Sir Edward Paget on 18 December 1850. His older brother William Thorne Buckland, who had arrived in 1841, had turned to cattle dealing, and had bought land for himself and on behalf of the government for the settlement of immigrants. An uncle, James Warwick Buckland, became manager of the North British Australian Loan and Investment Company and was the ultimate vendor of Kawau Island to Governor George Grey.
Settling on land bought by his brother at Kohuora, between Māngere and Papatoetoe in south Auckland, Alfred Buckland in 1855 joined Joseph Newman in livestock auctioneering. The business centred on saleyards at Newmarket, which had been the site of the Auckland and New Ulster Agricultural Society Show of 16 March 1852. The partnership of Newman and Buckland was dissolved on 14 August 1856 and Buckland continued to work on his own account. In 1865, while retaining the yards at Newmarket, he had spacious new premises constructed at the Haymarket in the commercial heart of Auckland city. The weekly horse bazaar at the Haymarket became a general meeting place of town and country. Buckland's business and standing grew.
In 1858 Buckland conducted the first public wool sale in New Zealand, from a store on Queen's Wharf. Thereafter he set up saleyards in a number of provincial towns and at Ōtāhuhu, which eventually became Auckland's fat-stock market. He also bought land in Waikato, at Āwhitu and on the Kaipara, until he was said to be the largest agriculturalist in the province. Buckland's Beach, a part of the East Head farm at Tamaki, was one of the first acquisitions, but the largest was the 9,378 acre South Head property on the Kaipara Harbour. This was bought in two parts: the first from Dr Daniel Pollen in 1878, and the second from W. S. Young in 1881. South Head station became a regular port of call for vessels entering the harbour. Buckland's own ships plied the coast, moving sheep and cattle from other New Zealand ports to his Auckland saleyards. On 10 December 1886 the Kina landed an excursion party, guests of W. H. Colbeck, under the guidance of Alfred Buckland. The visitors admired the large crops of oats and potatoes, and learned that wool was exported directly to London and that beef and mutton were raised for the Auckand market.
Buckland's sporting interests were those of a countryman. Co-founder of the Pakuranga Hunt Club in 1872, he presented it with five couple of hounds. He bred racehorses and on two occasions his horse won the Auckland Cup. He established a private racetrack at Buckland's Beach and made it available to his Howick neighbours for a meet in January 1864, and to the Pakuranga Racing Club for a meet with totalisator in 1889. For four terms, in 1880, 1894, 1897 and 1901, he was president of the Auckland Racing Club. In 1883 and 1886 he was president of the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association. He was a trustee of the Auckland Racing Club and of the Mount Roskill Highway District, where a Buckland Road was named after him.
When the New Zealand Insurance Company was founded in 1859, Buckland was made an auditor and then, like his brother, a director. He became a director of the South British Fire and Marine Insurance Company of New Zealand in 1876; of the Kaipara Steamship Company Limited, which he had promoted, in 1880; and of the ill-fated New Zealand Frozen Meat and Storage Company Limited in 1883.
Buckland's career was not, however, without its reverses. Like most major businessmen who had invested largely in agricultural land, he was caught up in the financial disasters of the 1880s. His debts to the Bank of New Zealand totalled an estimated £25,000 in 1889. They were settled by the transfer of property, including the Haymarket, to the Bank of New Zealand Estates Company. The New Zealand Frozen Meat and Storage Company went into voluntary liquidation in September 1889 and its assets were taken over by the Bank of New Zealand. In this case insufficient capital and heavy borrowing had caused the financial collapse of the company. Buckland's own business was reconstructed as Alfred Buckland and Sons in 1889, with premises, again named the Haymarket, in Albert Street. From auctioneering the business turned to stock and station work and the sale of farming equipment. It became a limited liability company in 1917 and in 1957 merged with the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Limited.
Buckland's large family left many descendants. His splendid Epsom homestead, Highwic, remained in their possession until it was purchased by the Auckland City Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1978. It was opened to the public in 1981. During his lifetime Alfred Buckland was widely respected for his openness and generosity of character. His business acumen and initiative made a major and lasting contribution to the development of Auckland and its dependent farmlands.