West Auckland comprises a chain of industrial and residential suburbs, stretching west of the Whau River from New Lynn to Hobsonville. West Auckland’s relatively cheap housing has attracted a youthful and multicultural population. In the words of one commentator: ‘the West is Auckland’s Struggle Country’. 1
A real cracker
Although Crown Lynn Potteries refined its techniques after the Second World War, one salesman was unable to convince a company in the hotel trade that its plates were strong enough. To prove his point, he bashed a Crown Lynn plate against the best in the hotelier’s stock. The Crown Lynn plate won and a large contract was signed. The next year the company had only one complaint: that Crown Lynn plates were breaking all the others in the dishwashers.
Brickworks and potteries
The clay soil attracted potters, and the first brick kiln in the west was built by Dr Daniel Pollen in 1852, at the mouth of the Whau. By 1901, brick and tile manufacturers were clustered in New Lynn. Briar Gardner, working in New Lynn from the 1920s, pioneered a parallel development in studio pottery.
During the Second World War, the New Zealand Brick Tile and Pottery Company diversified into china production to supply local markets and American troops. Under the new name of Crown Lynn, Tom Clark led an export business that developed into the largest pottery in the southern hemisphere. Competition from imports in the late 1980s ended 140 years of pottery manufacturing in the west. New Lynn remains the densest area of light industry in this region.
Orchards and vineyards
Orchards were planted from 1853 around Glen Eden, but failed to prosper until the early 1900s, when Dalmatian immigrants entered the sector. Some of them also planted vineyards. By 1960 Henderson and Oratia made up 80% of Auckland’s vineyards and orchards.
New Lynn, Glen Eden, Henderson
The completion of the railway from central Auckland to Henderson in 1881 encouraged the growth of settlements beside the line. These included New Lynn, Glen Eden (originally called Waikumete) and Henderson, all of which became boroughs. In the 1950s and 1960s building companies like Neil Homes providing low-cost houses for new home owners. Among these was an influx of Dutch migrants. By the 1980s a third of New Zealand Dutch lived in West Auckland.
Hoani Waititi Marae is a multicultural marae in Glen Eden and a focal point for Māori in the district. Henderson was the administrative centre of Waitākere city until it became part of Auckland city in 2010. A campus of the tertiary education provider Unitec is also based there.
Te Atatū, Rānui, Massey
Until the 1950s this area was largely rural. The construction of the north-western motorway spurred its development. During the 1960s and 1970s the Te Atatū peninsula was covered in low- to medium-income houses. In the 1980s the low-income suburbs of Massey and Rānui were built. Relatively high numbers of Pacific people have settled in Rānui, where churches are a focus of community life. A mosque serves the West’s Muslim population.
A ‘Westie’ is someone living in West Auckland. The stereotype is a male working-class Pākehā, who is macho, lawless, and lacks taste. Westies are often identified by their mullet haircut – short on the sides and long at the back. Many are car-obsessed. The Westie dream-machine is a Holden V8 ute, ideal for construction work and taking surf boards to the west coast beaches. Elsewhere in New Zealand, the term is ‘bogans’.
Hobsonville, Whenuapai, West Harbour
In the 1920s and 1930s airfields were developed on flat land at Hobsonville and Whenuapai as bases for the New Zealand Air Force. Whenuapai served as Auckland’s main civilian airport between 1945 and 1965, when Māngere International Airport was built. In 2003 Hobsonville was closed and the land set aside for housing. Whenuapai is also due to close. Waitākere City Council and some private investors want the airfield to become a second civilian airport.
With views across Waitematā Harbour and marinas, West Harbour is among the area’s most affluent communities.