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Auckland places

by  Margaret McClure

This is a comprehensive guide to the towns, coastal areas, islands and other places of interest in the Auckland region.


Cape Rodney–Ōkakari Point Marine Reserve

This is New Zealand’s first marine reserve (popularly called Goat Island Marine Reserve), and the site of the University of Auckland’s marine research laboratory. The reserve lies along a 5-km stretch of coastline north of Leigh and extends 800 m offshore. It attracts 100,000 visitors a year.

Wakatuwhenua (Goat Island Bay) was the landing place of the Moekākara canoe, commanded by Tāhuhunui-o-te-rangi.


2013 population: 441

Holiday settlement and deep-water fishing harbour south of Cape Rodney, 21 km north-east of Warkworth. Traditionally known as Ōmaha Cove, the site was renamed after the Wesleyan missionary Samuel Leigh. Today, Leigh Fisheries airfreights snapper, tuna and lobster overseas and employs one in five of the local population.


2013 population: 3,909

Picturesque township 69 km north of Auckland and 15 km up the Mahurangi River, beside Puhinui Falls. Many sites remain along the coastal headlands. In 1843 the settler John Anderson Brown purchased the area, naming it after his Northumberland birthplace.


In the 19th century, shipbuilding flourished with the ready supply of timber from the kauri forests. Early settlers also developed orchards on land too poor for crops. The Red Bluff Orchard, established by Edward Morrison in 1873, was one of New Zealand’s largest orchards by 1914, with 250,000 trees. Another important industry was Nathaniel Wilson’s Cement Works, the first in Australasia to produce Portland cement (the most common type).

During the 20th century, orchards made way for dairy and sheep farms. New Zealand’s main satellite communications station was constructed 5 kilometres south of Warkworth in 1971. As coastal land values have soared, farms have been redeveloped as wealthy housing estates, or replaced by vineyards, deer and ostrich farms.

Kawau Island

2013 population: 78

Island 8 km east of the Rodney coastline. It was named Te kawau tū mārō (‘the shag that stands sentinel’), because of the number of shags that flocked to its pōhutukawa trees. Before the 1820s the shark-fishing grounds made Kawau home for generations of Kawerau and Marutūahu sub-tribes. Momona Pā remains the most visible of 13 headland pā.

Copper mining

Families from Cornwall and Wales formed a mining community on the island after deposits of copper and manganese were discovered in the 1830s and 1840s. Around 3,000 tonnes of copper were extracted before the mine was abandoned in 1855.

Island retreat

In 1862 Governor Sir George Grey bought Kawau and built a large home there. After Grey sold the estate in 1888, the mansion became a boarding house and stopover for yachties en route to Great Barrier and the north. Broken bottles in the bay were said to form a ‘sediment a fathom deep’. 1

Trouble in paradise

Governor Sir George Grey wanted to make Kawau an island haven. He imported exotic plants and a variety of animals, especially sporting prey. But not all thrived. The sea was too warm for the trout, the zebras met violent deaths, and Grey shot the monkeys because they made a raucous noise in the trees around his house.


For over 100 years the island has been popular with tourists. In 1977 the Mansion House and gardens were purchased by the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, and in 1979 the house was restored and reopened for the public. The island is administered by the Department of Conservation.

    • Quoted in Gordon Ell, Wild islands: Exploring the islands of the Hauraki Gulf and beyond. Auckland: Bush Press, 1982, p. 57. › Back



2013 population: 285

Waiwera hot springs and beach are at the mouth of the Waiwera River, 48 km north of Auckland. The full name, Waiwerawera, means very hot water. Robert Graham developed New Zealand’s first tourist spa here from 1848. At his property, Wenderholm, on Waiwera spit, he established a garden of exotic trees and planted the largest pōhutukawa grove in 19th-century New Zealand. The property became Auckland’s first regional park in 1965.


Settlement on the upper reaches of the Pūhoi River, 6 km south of Warkworth. It was founded by Captain Martin Krippner from Staab in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. He encouraged fellow Bohemians to join him on land granted by the provincial government. The settlers felled 7 million superfeet (16,520 cubic metres) of kauri and developed dairy farms on the cleared land. The Puhoi Valley Cheese Company was founded in 1983, and employs about 100 people.

Up the boohai

The first group of Bohemian settlers in Pūhoi in 1863 faced extreme hardship, and had to live on the shoots of nīkau palms and gifts of food from the Ngāti Rongo people. Their isolation led to the Kiwi phrase ‘up the boohai’ (a corruption of ‘Pūhoi’) meaning ‘the back of beyond’.


Town 40 km north of Auckland on the ‘Hibiscus Coast’. The extension of Auckland’s northern motorway has made Ōrewa one of the fastest growing settlements north of the city. Although Ōrewa is now attracting more families, its population is older and less ethnically diverse (91% European in 2013) than the rest of Auckland.

On the Waiti (Wade) River, 5 kilometres south-west, is the historic township of Silverdale, now a factory outlet centre.

Whangaparāoa Peninsula

Large peninsula jutting into the Hauraki Gulf 25 km north of Auckland. The town of Whangaparāoa lies on its southern side. The easy lifestyle and high number of rest homes have made Whangaparāoa a retirement haven. The peninsula’s most luxurious development is the Gulf Harbour Marina and country club, where the World Cup of Golf was held in 1998. The Shakespear family’s farm at the eastern end was purchased and opened as the Shakespear Regional Park in 1967.

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Small island and open bird sanctuary 4 km east of the Whangaparāoa Peninsula. Kawerau and Ngāti Paoa people were drawn there by the shark-fishing grounds. Since Tiritiri was added to the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park in 1971, volunteers have planted 250,000 pōhutukawa and other native plants. Bird life has flourished, with rare birds including takahē, brown teal, saddleback, stitchbird and kōkako.

Tiritiri attracts 20,000 visitors a year. The 20-m Tiritiri lighthouse (1864) and surrounding buildings form the best preserved lighthouse complex in New Zealand.

Barrier islands

Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

2013 population: 927

Island lying 90 km north-east of Auckland. Great Barrier is the largest of the North Island’s nearshore islands: 40 km long and 16 km across. It is the broken-off tip of the volcanic chain that runs up the Coromandel Peninsula, 15 km to the south. Mt Hobson (Hirokimata, 621 m) is the highest point of the island’s rugged hills. On the west coast are five fiord-like harbour entrances, while the eastern side has white sandy beaches.

Early settlement

The island was visited by the ancestral Aotea canoe and occupied by Tainui and Te Arawa sub-tribes. James Cook renamed the island Great Barrier in 1769 because of the protection it gave to the Hauraki Gulf. Remnants of 19th- and early 20th-century industry remain in abandoned mine shafts, whaling stations, dams and mills.


Since the New Zealand Forest Service began regenerating the kauri forest in the 1970s, the island has become a stronghold for flora and fauna. There are 500 plant species on the island, 70 different types of fish, and a pristine mangrove forest.


The permanent residents of Great Barrier live with no reticulated water or electricity and are renowned for their self-sufficiency. Holidaymakers flock to the island in summer, lifting the population to 3,000.

Surviving – with lattes

Great Barrier Island has become familiar around the world as the setting for the BBC reality show, Castaway. For three months in 2007 the participants ‘survived’ on the island – but were actually living in Harataonga Bay, not far from a café, golf club and other amenities. A farmer who grazed cattle near the location had to move the animals away, in case their mooing destroyed the effect of primitive isolation.

Little Barrier Island (Hauturu)

Bird sanctuary 22 km north-east of Cape Rodney, 90 kilometres north-east of Auckland. Its cone (formed 1–1.5 million years ago) rises steeply out of the sea. The Māori name for the island, Hauturu is also the name of its highest peak (722 m). Signs of long periods of Māori habitation remain in the sacred grove of Pua Mataahu, and low stone walls.

Little Barrier became a reserve in 1894, and is one of the last patches of primordial New Zealand, with 370 different types of plants, as well as tuatara (reptiles), giant wētā (which resemble grasshoppers), and dozens of rare birds.

Gulf islands

Rangitoto Island

2013 population (including Motutapu and Rākino islands): 60

Cone-shaped volcanic island in the inner Hauraki Gulf, 4 km north-east of the entrance to the Waitematā Harbour. Rangitoto’s graceful silhouette is a symbol of Auckland. It is the largest and most recent of Auckland’s volcanic cones – the eruption which formed the island, around 1400 AD, was observed by Māori. The island was bought by the Crown in 1854, and quarried before it became a public reserve in 1890.

Motutapu Island

Island 10 km north-east of the entrance to the Waitematā Harbour. It is joined to Rangitoto by a natural causeway, but the landscape of sandstone cliffs and gentle farmland is dramatically different. Footprints and artefacts preserved in solidified lava show that Motutapu’s residents saw Rangitoto’s eruptions. Two forts and hundreds of Māori archaeological sites remain. The Department of Conservation has converted former Second World War barracks into an outdoor education centre.

Rākino Island

Motutapu is separated from the small Rākino Island by the 2-km Rākino Channel. Rākino was bought by Governor George Grey in 1862 and was later owned by Sanford Fisheries who developed their industry from this base. The island was subdivided in 1965.

Motukorea Island

Island 2 km from the mouth of Tāmaki estuary. The cone (68 m), deep crater, and associated knolls make the island Auckland’s most intact volcano. Motukorea is also known as Brown’s Island, after William Brown, who purchased it in 1840. It has been farmed continuously since then. In 1955 Sir Ernest Davis donated the island to Auckland city, which co-manages it with the Department of Conservation.

Motuihe Island

Anchor-shaped island 16 km east of Auckland. The clearest signs of centuries of Māori cultivation on Motuihe are evident at Pā Point. Most of the island is covered by rolling farmland, with groves of Norfolk pines. Motuihe served as a quarantine station for 50 years from 1873. During the First World War it became a detention centre for German residents in New Zealand and prisoners from (German) Samoa.

Plucky escape

Count Felix von Luckner, a captain in the German Navy, had sunk 86,000 tons of Allied shipping when he was captured in Fiji in 1917. He was imprisoned on Motuihe. Three weeks later he escaped, taking the commandant’s launch and then commandeering a scow and its crew. After sailing to the Kermadec Islands, he was recaptured.

The station became a children’s health camp in the 1930s and a naval base in the Second World War. In 1963 it was sold to Auckland city, which vested it in the Hauraki Maritime Park Board in 1967. Motuihe’s fine beaches and regular ferry service make it one of the most popular islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Waiheke Island

2013 population: 8,259

The largest and most urbanised of the inner islands of the Hauraki Gulf, 17 km from Auckland. Before subsidence created the Firth of Thames several million years ago, the island was part of the Coromandel Peninsula, 15 km east.

Many headland remain from Waiheke’s long occupation by the Te Arawa and Hauraki tribes. By the 1890s the beaches and balmy climate had made it a favourite resort. In recent years the development of vineyards, cafes and a fast ferry service has increased the island’s popularity and led to soaring property prices.

Pōnui Island

Island 1.3 km to the east of Waiheke, farmed continuously by the Chamberlin family since 1853. The island includes a wildlife sanctuary.

The North Shore

The North Shore grew rapidly after the completion of the Auckland Harbour Bridge – connecting the shore to the city – in 1959. It was formerly a series of boroughs, including Takapuna City, which were amalgamated into North Shore City in 1989, and all of which became part of Auckland city in 2010. The area has attracted many British immigrants and, more recently, migrants from Asia. The second most common language spoken is Korean.

Albany and North Harbour

The fastest growing area of the North Shore. Many of the district’s strawberry gardens and dairy farms were redeveloped in the 1980s and 1990s into 10-acre (4-ha) lifestyle blocks or intensive terraced housing. The township beside Lucas Creek has expanded to include mega stores and the 25,000-capacity North Harbour Stadium, home to the North Harbour rugby team. Nearby is the Albany campus of Massey University.

East Coast Bays

Series of sandy beaches and marine suburbs stretching from Takapuna along the north-east coast of the North Shore, up to Long Bay. This area was still a rural backwater when it was made a borough in 1954. It is now covered in housing. The Long Bay Regional Park is the nearest regional park to Auckland city, and a popular picnic site. It is also part of the Long Bay–Ōkura Marine Reserve.

Takapuna and Milford

Coastal suburbs at the southern end of East Coast Bays. Lake Pupuke lies 200 m inland from the beach. It is the crater of a 150,000 year-old volcanic eruption, later filled with fresh spring water. In the 19th century small dairy farms were established, while the beach and Lake Pupuke became resorts. Takapuna gained city status after the opening of the Harbour Bridge, and is the commercial and administrative hub of the North Shore.


Historic marine suburb at the southern tip of the North Shore peninsula. It was initially called Flagstaff, when a signalling station was set up on Takarunga (Mt Victoria) in 1841, but was renamed Devonport in 1868.

Naval HQ

Māori were the first to appreciate Devonport’s strategic location, building on Takarunga (Mt Victoria). In the mid-1880s gun emplacements were built to ward off a feared invasion from Russia. By 1909 Devonport was a naval base, with a deep-water anchorage at Stanley Bay. Military facilities were extended during both world wars, and a maze of tunnels built beneath North Head. Devonport remains the home of the New Zealand navy.

The establishment of the Devonport Steam Ferry Company in 1881 – connecting the settlement to central Auckland – transformed it into a suburb. Before the construction of the Harbour Bridge, car ferries to Devonport made it the beginning of the main road north. Attracted by the historic houses and buildings, and the proximity to central Auckland, people began to gentrify the suburb in the 1970s.

Birkenhead and Northcote

Historic suburbs on the northern shore of the Waitematā Harbour. Birkenhead stretches from Hellyer’s Creek to Little Shoal Bay. Northcote runs east to Stokes Point.

By 1849 European settlers were pioneering commercial fruit and strawberry growing. The establishment of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in 1884 boosted suburban growth and supplied sugar for the whole of New Zealand. After the construction of the Harbour Bridge, cheap housing subdivisions transformed neighbouring Birkdale and Beach Haven.

Saving kererū

Concerned at the loss of Glenfield’s natural habitat, volunteers set up the Kaipātiki Ecological Restoration Project in 1997. The aim was to restore Kaipātiki Stream and the forest margins by ridding them of plant and animal pests. In 2003 they launched a scheme to reverse declining numbers of kererū (wood pigeons) by planting trees the birds could feed on. This evolved into a national project to save the kererū from extinction.


Inland suburb developed in the 1960s, as available coastal land dwindled. Small mixed farms were sold off and new, lower-income suburbs like Glenfield and Sunnynook filled their place. An industrial park was developed around Wairau Road.

Kaipara Harbour and kauri towns

Kaipara Harbour

Vast harbour on the western side of Northland peninsula, and traditional home of Ngāti Whātua. The Kaipara is 500 sq km, with at least 800 km of coastline, has large tidal mudflats and misty headlands. It contains the lower reaches of the Wairoa and Kaipara rivers.

Timber port

In spite of a treacherous bar at the harbour entrance, a number of busy timber ports were established on the Kaipara’s shores in the 19th century, handling millions of metres of timber and thousands of tonnes of kauri gum. Once the forests had gone, the area became a backwater.


The Ōkahukura Peninsula marks the mid-point of the harbour and the northern boundary of Auckland. Tāporapora, on the western tip, is a haven for shore birds and waders. The sand hills of Kaipara’s South Head enclose a series of dune lakes which are important wildlife habitats.

Port Albert

Small dairying settlement on the Ōruawharo River, 9 km north-west of Wellsford, named after Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. It was established between 1862 and 1865 as Albertland, a non-conformist religious settlement for 3,000 English immigrants. Not all of these arrived, and of those who did, many struggled to make a living. Most moved to more fertile farmland elsewhere in the region.

Naming Wellsford

Local tradition suggests the name Wellsford was an acronym based on the family names of the first settlers. These were the families of Watson, Edger, Lester, Levet, Simpson, Foster, Oldfield, Ramsbottom and Dibble.


2013 population: 1,698

Northernmost town in the Auckland region, 114 km north-west of Auckland. It stands at the junction of the main road north and the railway to Ōpua. Since the 1930s Wellsford has served hundreds of dairy farms extending to Ōruawharo, Tomorata and Glorit. Today a major employer is Izard Irwin International, a local saw-blade exporter.


2013 population: 2,640

Historic town on the banks of the Kaipara River, at the southern end of the Kaipara Harbour, 50 km north-west of Auckland. Mt Auckland/Atuanui, 22 km north of Kaukapakapa, is a sacred place for Ngāti Whātua. At 305 m it is the highest point in the district.

Formerly known as Awaroa, the town was renamed after Helen McLeod, wife of pioneering timber miller John McLeod. From 1863 it became a major port for the timber trade, providing shipping services around the Kaipara, and to west coast ports and Sydney. Once the logging days were over, Helensville turned to dairy and sheep farming. More recently deer farms, nut plantations and vineyards have been established.

The Parakai Springs Hot Pools, 3 km north-west, is a popular thermal resort.


Township at the head of the upper Waitematā Harbour, 31 km from central Auckland. In the 19th century it was a centre for gum digging, and a vital trading link with Helensville and the Kaipara. The river setting was also ideal for milling timber, flour and paper. In the 20th century tobacco was grown. The Riverhead State Forest was planted on 5,000 ha of poor gum land from 1929 to 1933. Owned today by Carter Holt Harvey, the forest is popular for its biking trails.

From gum to grapes

Among the Croatian gum diggers who became winemakers were Mick and Kate Brajkovich and their son Mate. In 1944 they bought a small vineyard in Kumeū, calling it San Marino Vineyards. In 1958 Mate married Melba Sutich and had four children. During the 1980s the family planted new varieties and renamed their vineyard Kumeū River Wines. The winery became celebrated for its chardonnay wine, boosting the district’s reputation as a premium wine-growing area.

Kumeū and Huapai

Horticultural centres 25 and 26 km north-west of central Auckland. The warm, well-drained rolling countryside around Waimāuku has many vineyards. These were established by Croatian settlers after they left the worked-out gumfields. Today five labels dominate winemaking in the area: Matua Valley, Nobilo, Kumeū River, Coopers Creek and Selak.

Waitākere Ranges

Waitākere Ranges

Rugged forested range of hills (reaching 450 m), stretching north-west from the north head of the Manukau Harbour. The Waitākere Ranges were an important stronghold of the Kawerau people. The region takes the name Waitākere, meaning ‘wave-swept rock’, from a small bay at the northern end of Te Henga. Annual rainfall is 2,000 mm – compared with 1,268 in central Auckland.

Felling frenzy

Between 1840 and 1940, 23 timber mills worked the Waitākere Ranges. They took 300 million superfeet (708,000 cubic metres) of kauri timber – about 120,000 trees. By the 1920s there was little kauri forest left in the Waitākeres. In the 1940s what remained was protected in reserves.

Timber mill to regional park

From 1859 to 1925 mill owners carried out indiscriminate logging of the dense kauri forest. In the 20th century the Waitākere area became a major water catchment area for Auckland, with the first small dam built in 1902. From 1894 sections of forest were reserved for the public. A major expansion came in 1940 when 6,400 hectares of the Waitākeres were made the Centennial Memorial Park, marking the centenary of Auckland’s founding. Today the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park includes 16,000 hectares and 143 walking tracks. The most spectacular remaining kauri, 1,500–2,000 years old, can be seen in the Cascades Kauri Park.

West Coast beaches

Chain of wild beaches along the west coast of the Waitākere Ranges, extending from Muriwai in the north (45 km from central Auckland) to Whatipu at the mouth of the Manukau Harbour. They have pounding surf from the Tasman Ocean, rugged cliffs and black ironsands. Many coastal headlands have been sites of the Kawerau people.


Also known as One Rangatira (‘the chiefly beach’), this settlement stretches north of Te Henga. Its toheroa (shellfish) have been sought-after for generations (although collecting them is now prohibited). One million people a year visit the gannet colony beside Motutara area, which became Muriwai Regional Park in 1969. Woodhill Forest (12,500 ha), planted with pines on sandy dunes behind Muriwai in 1934, is popular for hunting, horse-riding and motocross.

Te Henga to Whatipu

The Waitākere River opens out at Te Henga (Bethells Beach), the focus of Kawerau settlement in this area. Further south is Piha and the pā site, Whakaari. Inland are the Kitekite Falls. Piha is famed for its long-established surf club, and Lion Rock. Karekare Beach, south of Piha, is the site of Jane Campion’s 1993 film The piano. Whatipu (44 km from central Auckland) is the southernmost and bleakest of the West Coast beaches, interesting for the sand dunes that have extended from its cliffs.


Holiday settlement on the northern shore of Manukau Harbour, 32 km from central Auckland. Its name derives from Te Rau o Huia, meaning the plume of the huia bird. Nearby at Little Huia the summit of Mt Donald McLean (390 m) offers spectacular views of the city and the harbour.


Holiday settlement on the Pūponga peninsula, 31 km from central Auckland. A monument on the highest point of the peninsula commemorates the Scottish settlers who settled there in 1841, but failed to prosper.


Picturesque suburb of houses scattered through the southern Waitākere Range, between Glen Eden and Laingholm. On the fringes of Auckland, for a long time Titirangi had a reputation for bohemianism, and it is still home to many artists. From Titirangi township the Scenic Drive traces the eastern ridge of the ranges for 50 km. The Arataki Visitors’ Centre, 6 km away, showcases Te Kawerau-a-Maki sculpture and life in the west.

West Auckland

West Auckland

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.

    • Warwick Roger, Places in the heart: the best of Warwick Roger. Auckland: Century Hutchinson, 1989, p. 49. › Back

Waitematā Harbour

The Waitematā Harbour (also known as Auckland Harbour) is a drowned river valley, stretching from Riverhead in the north-west to Tāmaki River in the east. It has tidal flats and mangroves in the upper reaches to the west, and sandy bays with sandstone cliffs along the eastern shores. The harbour’s deep navigable channels and sheltered bays helped to determine Lieutenant-Governor Hobson’s choice of a site for New Zealand's capital in 1840.

Naming the waters

Wai-te-matā means ‘obsidian waters’ – the glassy surface resembled volcanic obsidian rock. In Te Arawa tradition, the harbour was named by the ancestor Tamatekapua, when he placed a volcanic stone as a mauri (talisman) in its waters near Birkenhead. The Ngāpuhi people called it Te Wai-o-te-mate (the waters of death) – a reference to battles to control the Tāmaki isthmus.

Māori forts around Waitematā’s headlands were redeveloped for the Russian invasion scare in the 1880s and the Second World War.

Auckland’s chief port

Auckland’s port on the Waitematā was vital to the progress of the city and region. The first of a series of land reclamations to expand the port area began in 1859. By 1900, 132 acres (53 hectares) of land had been reclaimed from the harbour. By 1955 the total had reached 390 acres (157 hectares).

In 2015 the port handled 31% of New Zealand’s container trade. Each summer about 30 cruise liners berth at the nearby Princes Wharf. A law change in 2004 transferred 80% of the Ports of Auckland Ltd assets from private to Auckland City Council control.

Viaduct Basin to Westhaven

The Viaduct Basin, site of the old fishing harbour, was redeveloped in the mid-1990s as a site where the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron could host the America’s Cup in 1999 and 2003. Today restaurants and mega-yachts make it a lively hub of activity. Nearby is the Maritime Museum on Hobson’s Wharf. The Westhaven Marina, with 1,800 berths, is the largest managed marina in Australasia, and a symbol of Aucklanders’ love of sailing. Other marinas have been constructed around the harbour. On Auckland Anniversary Day each year the Auckland Regatta (the largest one-day regatta in the world) fills the harbour with sails.

Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Auckland Harbour Bridge (1,020 m long) was opened in 1959 to link the Auckland isthmus with the north. It spans the harbour from Point Erin to Stokes Point. Designed by Freeman Fox and Partners, with a cantilever-style single span, it was the last bridge in the world constructed with a steel lattice girder. In 1969 four outer lanes were added. Pre-fabricated in Japan, these sections became known as the ‘Nippon clip-ons’.

Greenhithe Bridge

The Greenhithe Bridge was built in 1975 as an alternative harbour crossing, spanning the upper Waitematā from Hobsonville to Greenhithe on the North Shore.

On the rocks

In his autobiography, historian Keith Sinclair described playing on Meola reef: ‘[The reef] was treacherous, with crevices in the black basalt rock. But it was also alive, with mussels, oysters, crabs, pools of shrimps and tommy-cod … Once out on the reef we would often light a fire and bake potatoes, wrapped in mud, in the embers. … There were edible shell-fish, too, including scallops to be picked up during exceptionally low tides. The Swiss Family Robinson had nothing on us.’ 1

Natural features

Natural features of the Waitematā include Meola reef (also known as Te Tokoroa, meaning ‘a long reef’), a rocky sub-marine promontory. It was formed by lava flowing from the Three Kings eruption 20,000 years ago. Pollen Island Marine Reserve (Motu Manawa) on the northern side of the north-west motorway is the best Auckland example of a mangrove saltmarsh.

    • Keith Sinclair, Halfway round the harbour: An autobiography. Auckland: Penguin Books, 1993, p. 18. › Back

Auckland central business district


The CBD was part of a central wedge of the isthmus that was the first land bought from Ngāti Whātua by the Crown in 1840. It covers 433 hectares in a triangular area bounded by the Waitematā Harbour and the inner suburbs of Ponsonby, Newton and Parnell.

The city’s commerce first developed around Shortland Street above Commercial Bay, close to the site where Captain Hobson founded Auckland on 18 September 1840. Princes Street became the seat of government and the site of some fine merchant homes. Queen Street, with its banks, shops and warehouses, was built over the Horotiu Stream and soon became the heart of the CBD. The role of Māori in the founding of Auckland is celebrated in Molly McAllister’s statue of a warrior at the foot of Queen Street.

The CBD gradually declined after 1960. Factories moved from the inner city to cheaper land in west and south Auckland, and suburban shopping malls brought the closure of downtown department stores. The CBD remained a stronghold of financial and service industries. This was reinforced in the 1980s, when Auckland replaced Wellington as New Zealand’s financial capital, and new high-rise office buildings reshaped its skyline.

Renewal and controversy

During the 1990s education became the CBD’s biggest export earner. As well as the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, new schools catered for large numbers of Asian students of English. The inner city was revitalised by these and others drawn to apartment life. Clubs and cafés reinvigorated the former red-light areas near Queen Street and along Karangahape Road.

Between 1991 and 2013 the population grew from 1,400 residents to over 32,400. Of these, 45% were of Asian origin and the median age was 26.9 years (compared with 31.5 years for Auckland as a whole). An important project was the Britomart transport centre, opened in 2003 to coordinate train, ferry and bus transport. The aim was to reduce traffic in a city where 60% of people entering the CBD on weekdays were travelling by car. Queen Street has remained the gathering point for festive parades and protest marches.

Since 2006 public concern over shoddy commercial developments and the government’s advocacy of a massive, port-side stadium has led to a review of the design of the CBD.

Straight up

Building Auckland’s Sky Tower required sophisticated technology to ensure it was dead straight. Measurements were taken from three surrounding points: the ASB Bank building, Mt Eden, and the Coopers and Lybrand building. Lasers were used to get verticality readings, and seven satellites fixed its exact position.

City icons

The Auckland War Memorial Museum, Tāmaki Paenga Hira, is New Zealand’s largest neo-classical structure. It is sited on Pukekawa Hill (‘hill of bitter memories’), the highest point in the expansive grounds of the Auckland Domain. The 81-ha Domain, Auckland’s first park, was established in 1845. The expanse of lawns and trees links the CBD with the eastern suburbs. Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki, designed in French Chateau style, was the first permanent gallery in New Zealand (1887) and is the largest today.

Distinctive new buildings include the Sky Tower, which dominates the skyline, and the arc-shaped Business School at the University of Auckland.

Western suburbs: Ponsonby to Hillsborough

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.

Central suburbs: Parnell to One Tree Hill


Historic suburb, settled in 1841. Its oldest surviving buildings date from the 1860s, when Bishop Selwyn lived there. By the 1950s the suburb was falling into decay. In the 1960s developers restored some of the shops along the main street, creating Parnell Village. This encouraged the gentrification of the surrounding area. It is now among Auckland’s wealthiest suburbs.


Commercial and industrial inner-city suburb, bordering the Auckland Domain. Newmarket’s role derived from its strategic site at the junction of railway lines north, south and west, and the Great South Road and Manukau Road. It became the centre for early cattle markets (hence its name) and the site of railway workshops from 1884 to 1928.

Burgers on Broadway

Broadway in Newmarket has had many American influences. In 1942, Frisco’s Hamburger and Coffee Bar was sited at the busy junction of Broadway, Newmarket and the Great South Road, on the route to American military camps south of the city. The Americans were impressed with the flavour of the burgers, and the amount of fresh vegetables included. One soldier used to ask for his hamburger to be ‘dragged through the garden’. 1

When the southern motorway was built in the 1950s, many industries relocated to South Auckland. The Lion Nathan Brewery, Newmarket’s largest industry, remained until 2011. The construction of apartments in the 1980s reversed the population’s downward trend, while the ‘277’ shopping mall made Newmarket an upmarket retail centre.


Suburb named after Remuwera, the former name of Mt Hobson. The Ngāti Whātua tribe resisted selling Remuera’s fertile north-facing slopes above its Ōrākei settlement until the Crown negotiated sales in 1851 and 1853. By the 1890s the area was dotted with large mansions and small farms. Its mixed population became wealthier through the 20th century. From 1950 Remuera was dominated by affluent professional and business families.

Epsom, Greenlane, Ellerslie

Auckland’s ‘leafy suburbs’, along with Remuera. The description suggests space and affluence – although since the 1960s they have all been modified by motels, private hotels and infill housing. The area contains some of Auckland’s most prestigious secondary schools, including Auckland Grammar, Epsom Girls Grammar, St Cuthbert’s, and Diocesan.


Since holding New Zealand’s first organised race meeting in 1842, this district has been a centre for horse racing. The Alexandra Park racecourse (Auckland’s home of trotting) and Ellerslie racecourse were developed on farmland sold by Robert Graham to the Auckland Racing Club in 1873.


Epsom has traditionally been linked with Green Lane and National Women’s hospitals. The centralisation of most services on the Auckland City Hospital site in 2004 brought the closing of National Women’s and reduced the importance of Green Lane. The private Ascot Hospital remains in Ellerslie.

Cornwall Park

These suburbs border the huge area of Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill Domain (182 ha in total). Cornwall Park was gifted to Auckland City by John Logan Campbell in 1901 and has been farmed continuously since then. One Tree Hill’s summit has been crowned by a succession of trees; the last (a monterey pine) was felled in 2001. An obelisk built during the 1940 Centennial as a memorial to Māori still stands. To the east, Ellerslie farmland has been redeveloped for light industry.

    • Quoted in Dinah Holman, Newmarket lost and found. Auckland: Bush Press (for the Newmarket Business Association), 2001, p. 135. › Back

Eastern suburbs: Ōrākei to the Tāmaki River


Home of the Ngāti Whātua tribe from the 1840s, when land sales reduced their holdings to 700 acres (283 hectares) around Ōkahu Bay. In 1914 the bay became the site of Auckland’s main sewer outlet, polluting traditional fishing grounds. During the 1920s land above the Ngāti Whātua settlement was taken for housing – Ōrākei became a state housing suburb in 1938. Finally, in 1951 Ngāti Whātua were systematically evicted from Ōkahu Bay, their houses demolished and meeting house burnt.


In the 1980s the tribe sought redress for their land losses. A successful Treaty of Waitangi claim in 1991 awarded the Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei Māori Trust Board $3 million compensation and led to resettlement of their marae area.

Boat out of water

The first flying boat to be flown in the southern hemisphere took off from Bastion Point on New Year’s Day, 1915. It was designed and built by pioneering aviators Leonard and Vivian Walsh, with the help of their sisters and an engineer. Later in the year the Walsh brothers opened a flying school on the Mission Bay foreshore, training 100 pilots for the war in Europe. Flying boats were an important part of the Waitematā scene until 1989.

Bastion Point

This promontory above Tāmaki Drive, known to Ngāti Whātua as Takaparawhā, has come to symbolise Māori land issues. It was given to the Crown by Ngāti Whātua as a defence site during the Russian scare of 1885. In 1977–78 a 506-day protest against a proposed Crown sale was held there. The obelisk in Savage Memorial Park on Bastion Point commemorates the burial place of Michael Joseph Savage, first Labour prime minister, who died in 1940.

Kohimarama, Mission Bay, St Heliers, Glendowie

Series of marine suburbs lining Tāmaki Drive on the southern shore of the Waitematā. Back from the sea lies the former ‘Bishop’s Auckland’ where Bishop George Selwyn bought 538 hectares and founded an educational complex at St John’s College in 1844. The theological college and several fine Gothic revival wooden buildings remain. The re-siting of the Melanesian Mission on the Waitematā shore in 1859 gave Mission Bay its name.

In the early 20th century a rail line to Westfield was built across Hobson Bay, and ferries took picnickers to beaches along the shore. A new era of suburban development followed the construction of Tāmaki Drive, completed in 1932. In 2013 residents were predominantly affluent white New Zealanders. They include small communities of recent southern and eastern European migrants. Beaches, cafés and views of Rangitoto make this a popular area.

Tāmaki River

River flowing from Māngere East to a tidal estuary on the Waitematā. It was a vital link (by way of the Ōtāhuhu portage) to the Manukau for Māori. At Karaka Bay, the first bay on the western shore, Captain Hobson met with Ngāti Pāoa in 1840 to collect signatures to the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tāhuna Tōrea sandspit, reaching across towards Buckland’s Beach, has been a protected wilderness area since the 1970s. Half Moon Bay Marina is on the eastern shore. The first Panmure Bridge was built to span the Tāmaki River in 1866, and the current bridge in 1959.

South-eastern suburbs: industrial heartland

Glen Innes, Pt England and Tāmaki

Low-income suburbs lining the west bank of the Tāmaki River. In the 1950s tracts of state housing were constructed southwards from Glen Innes to serve industrial growth in Mt Wellington and Penrose. Their position – close to central Auckland and beside a suburban railway – has encouraged urban renewal and medium-density housing. A campus of the University of Auckland is sited in Tāmaki.

Panmure, Mt Wellington and Ōtāhuhu

Industrial suburbs stretching from the north-east arm of the Manukau to the Panmure Basin. Between Westfield and Ōtāhuhu lies the narrowest point in New Zealand, the 1-km strip between the Tāmaki River and the Manukau that Māori used as a canoe portage.


Panmure, Ōtāhuhu and also Onehunga began as military settlements, from which the Pākehā invasion of Waikato was launched in the 1860s. In the early 1900s, cheap flat land and easy access to ports, roads and railways made this an ideal area for heavy industry. Southdown freezing works, opened in 1905, were followed by Westfield and Hellaby’s works, new railway workshops, and rubber, chemical and fertiliser companies.

The works

Tracey McIntosh describes life in Ōtāhuhu before the freezing works closed in the 1980s. ‘I grew up in a street neatly cut in half by the main trunk railway-line, in which nearly all the Maori men (like my Pakeha father) worked at one of the three freezing works … On swimming days I took along my towel with the red and white Westfield insignia, and looked scornfully at those who carried Hellaby or Southdown towels. The works were all dense communities … that extended far beyond the abattoir walls, reaching out to many parts of South Auckland.’ 1

The 1980s changed the landscape and workforce, with the closure of the freezing works and the railway workshops. The area from Te Pāpapa to Ōtāhuhu is now dominated by large warehouses and the New Zealand Forest Products paper mill.

Recent growth

In Penrose, new industrial parks have been built beside the southern motorway. The Auckland City Council’s Tāmaki Edge Urban Renewal Scheme will include a technology park in the former quarry at Mt Wellington, with medium-density housing for predicted growth from Glen Innes to Sylvia Park. It includes the Tamaki transformation project, which focuses on improving housing and socio-economic conditions in Glenn Innes, Point England and Panmure. The Sylvia Park mega-mall, opened in 2006, is New Zealand’s largest.


Suburb on the north-eastern arm of Manukau Harbour. Onehunga thrived during the 19th century as a timber port and a passenger port for travel to the lower North Island and South Island. It still functions as a secondary port. For much of the 20th century it was a strong working-class community, but since the 1990s parts of it have been gentrified.

    • Tracey McIntosh, ‘Living southside.’ In Ian Carter and others, Almighty Auckland? Palmerston North: Dunmore, 2004, p. 91. › Back

East Auckland

Howick and Bucklands Beach

Fencible settlement

This area developed slowly on land formerly occupied by Ngāi Tai. European settlement began in 1847 when three companies of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles were assigned to a defence post in Howick. They were retired soldiers enlisted to serve for seven years in exchange for a cottage and an acre of land. Howick was the largest of the Fencible settlements, with 804 people in three companies in 1848. All Saints (Anglican) Church was built in 1847 and is Auckland’s oldest church. Other old buildings are now in Howick Historical Village.

East and west

In 1995 the journalist Helene Wong wrote of Howick’s nickname, ‘When a European refers laughingly to “Chowick”, the assimilated bit of us laughs along with them, but the Chinese bit of us freezes up at the sound of the old insult.’ 1

Farms to suburbs

After the 1860s New Zealand wars, cropping became the main activity, with wheat and oats the major exports. In the early 20th century Bucklands Beach was popular among Auckland daytrippers, who came by ferry to swim and picnic. In 1952 Howick became a borough, after which it and Bucklands Beach experienced rapid growth, becoming affluent commuter suburbs of Auckland. From the 1980s new Asian migrants arrived.

Among the cultural attractions is Howick Little Theatre, an amateur theatre company established in 1954.


Suburb south-west of Howick. Until the 1950s Pakuranga was sparsely settled and largely farmland. A rising demand for housing in Auckland saw it transformed into a new suburb. In 1965 the Fletcher Construction Company developed Pakuranga Town Centre and Tī Rākau Drive. Housing companies then built thousands of middle-income homes. In the 1970s, Pakuranga became known as Vim Valley – after a ‘typical Pakuranga housewife’ was used in a television commercial for Vim, a cleaning product. For many, it was the archetypal middle-class suburb. A 1979 survey found that 93% of Pakuranga households owned their home and 58% never used buses.

Losing their hare

Established in 1872, the Pakuranga Hunt is New Zealand’s oldest hunt club. It did not have a promising start. After releasing a hare, the hounds and riders set off. But after galloping over hill and dale for hours, the Master of the Hunt called it a day, with no kill. ‘We must have seen at least 20 hares,’ wrote one participant. ‘[B]ut the land generally is too dry and hard to hold a scent and till we have a good downpour of rain, scent cannot be expected to lie.’ 2

Botany Downs

Botany Downs was developed from the late 1990s by the Manukau City Council and private enterprise. At the intersection of two arterial roads – linking Manukau City and central Auckland – it has a mix of medium- and low-density housing, including gated communities. Land uses are mixed and public space is designed to encourage sociability. This is most visible in the Botany Town Centre, which is designed around a series of privately owned, pedestrian-friendly streets. It features a variety of retail, entertainment, and office buildings as well as ample public space.

Further growth

Rapid suburban development continues in Dannemora and East Tāmaki Heights. The district has attracted people from elsewhere in Auckland, as well as new migrants from Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. A new town at Flat Bush will house an anticipated population of 40,000 by 2025.


South Auckland

Series of residential and industrial suburbs, stretching from Ōtāhuhu to Papakura. This was largely a farming area until the 1950s, when the southern motorway to Wiri encouraged industry and low-cost housing. New shopping centres sprang up at places like Māngere and Ōtara. In 1965 Manukau county and Manurewa borough amalgamated to form Manukau city. A new city centre at Wiri – now Manukau Central – was opened in 1977. In 2010 Manukau city became part of an enlarged Auckland city.

Social structure

The presence of 165 different ethnic groups makes South Auckland New Zealand’s most ethnically urban area. It also holds by far the largest proportion of Auckland’s poorest residents. Recent growth has accentuated social differences. Coastal and rural subdivisions between Whitford and Clevedon are affluent, whereas industrial suburbs in the west are home to poorer, Pacific and Māori communities.

Māngere and Ōtara


Fertile soils and good fishing created comfortable living conditions for Māori, who named the area Māngere, meaning ‘lazy’. Europeans planted crops and then turned to dairying. From the mid-20th century Māngere attracted intensive market-gardening. As the area became suburbanised, growers moved further south to Pukekohe, or north to Whenuapai.

State housing and industry

After 1945, state housing for 20,000 residents was built in Ōtara to provide labour for the area’s growing industries. This included the new international airport (opened in 1966) and the Māngere sewage treatment plant. Economic reforms in the 1980s forced the closure of many industries and created high unemployment rates until the early 2000s. The area’s strong Pacific Island culture is visible in its churches, hip-hop music, and the Ōtara market.

Robbie’s ponds

Sir Dove-Myer Robinson (or ‘Robbie’) came to prominence in the late 1940s when he led opposition to a proposal to discharge Auckland’s sewage straight into the Hauraki Gulf. Elected to the city council in 1953, he proposed a scheme for oxidation ponds on Manukau Harbour at Māngere, to break down sewage naturally. This was approved, and propelled Robbie into the Auckland mayoralty in 1959; he became the city’s longest serving mayor. The ponds were replaced by land-based treatment in 2003.

Auckland International Airport

The airport was built on partly reclaimed land on the eastern shore of Manukau Harbour. Opened in 1966 to replace Whenuapai Airport, it became New Zealand’s busiest airport and the country’s main gateway to the world. In 2006 over 12 million passengers travelled through the airport.


Former township now encircled by suburbs. Its name means ‘on the plain where toe toe grows’. The fertile soil and proximity to the Ōtāhuhu canoe portage made it important to Māori. Its early settlement is reflected in the higher number of Māori and Pākehā than in newer South Auckland centres.


Formerly a semi-rural area that was transformed in the 1960s by new housing. The 143-ha Totara Park and the adjacent Auckland Botanic Gardens, opened in 1982, both lie east of the southern motorway.

Naming the harbour

In Te Arawa tradition, the harbour was named Mānuka (implanted post), after the ancestor Īhenga, who claimed the waters by planting a stake. Tainui traditions name the harbour Te Mānukanuka-a-Hoturoa (the troublesome waters of Hoturoa), due to the sandbanks and rapid tides. More often the harbour is called Manukau (wading birds), because of the migratory birds that feed there.

Manukau Harbour

Large shallow tidal harbour on the south coast of the Auckland isthmus, opening into the Tasman Sea. Plentiful fish supplies drew Māori to settle on its shores. It was also an important transport link between the Waikato River and Waitematā and Kaipara harbours. In the 19th century it became a port for Pākehā and Māori coastal and Australian trade, despite a dangerous bar at the entrance.

Papakura and the rural south-east


Town on the shores of the Pahurehure inlet of the Manukau harbour, 34 km south of Auckland city. An early frontier settlement, Papakura retained its independence as a separate district from the surrounding Franklin County. Papakura marks the southern suburban fringe of greater Auckland and the gateway to the rural south.

Military camp

The Papakura Military Camp was established on the outskirts of the town in 1939, and remains an important army base (though it was closed from 1992 to 2002). In the early 2000s some land was set aside for new housing development, including state housing.


Rural centre on the west bank of the Wairoa River, 40 km south-east of central Auckland. Its traditional name was Te Wairoa. Whitford to the north, with its 10-acre lifestyle blocks, has become a rural retreat for wealthy commuters. 

Traditional bach (holiday-home) settlements along the south coast of Tāmaki Strait from Maraetai to Beachlands have grown into commuter suburbs.

Hūnua Ranges

Steep ranges (rising to 688 m) south-east of Papakura, stretching to the Firth of Thames. The ranges are formed of uplifted blocks of greywacke, and covered with dense forest. The area was a refuge for Māori when British troops invaded the Waikato in 1863. Since the 1950s, some valleys have been dammed, making the area a major water catchment for Auckland.

The Hūnua Falls on the Wairoa River have been a favourite tourist spot since the 19th century. Hūnua Ranges Regional Park (17,000 hectares), lying astride the Auckland–Waikato boundary, is a huge recreational area and protects regenerating kauri.


Small township 5 km south of Papakura, named after Captain Drury, who surveyed Manukau Harbour. When the Great South Road was built from Auckland to the Waikato River in the early 1860s, Drury became a base for British military operations against Waikato Māori. Today it is a major area for glasshouse horticulture.

Culture clash

The Bombay hills form a symbolic border between Auckland and the rest of the nation. People south of the hills mock Aucklanders’ brashness and self-importance, whereas those to the north lampoon southerners’ plainness and conformity. On either side of ‘the frontier’ you may hear the phrase ‘New Zealand stops at the Bombay hills’.


Settlement 10 km south-east of Drury, on an eroded volcano which formed the steep Bombay hills. It is named after a ship that brought English migrants to clear and farm the district in 1863. In the early 1900s an Indian community settled in the area; a Sikh temple, opened in 2004, is prominent at the town’s entrance.

Pukekohe and the rural south-west


Rural centre 40 km south of central Auckland on the eastern foreshore of Manukau Harbour. It serves a fertile region of market-gardening and dairying. Karaka is also home to the national yearling sales, held at the Karaka Bloodstock Sales Complex. In recent years wealthy Aucklanders have established lifestyle blocks in the district.


2013 population: 8,199

Historic settlement, now the service town for a fertile farming and horticultural area 64 km south of central Auckland. This was a traditional area of Ngāti Te Ata. Sited on the Awaroa portage – between the Manukau Harbour and Waikato River – Waiuku was a stopping point for Waikato Māori trading with Auckland.

Glenbrook Steel Mills

Since 1969 ironsands from the Waikato River mouth have been used in the production of steel at the Glenbrook Steel Mills, 7 km north-east of Waiuku on the estuary. Renamed New Zealand Steel in 2002, and a subsidiary of the Australian company Bluescope Steel, the mills are the sole New Zealand producer of flat rolled steel products.

Pukekohe prejudice

In 1963 Pukekohe onion-grower Rai Wai Ching contested a Parliamentary seat to highlight town prejudice. At candidates’ meetings he complained he was not served in bars and was only sold (less comfortable) downstairs seats in cinemas. After threats to blow him up, he was given police protection. Ching was not elected, but the publicity gradually changed town attitudes. He was later able to drink in hotels and choose his cinema seat.


2013 population: 19,386

Town servicing a fertile farming and horticultural area, 52 km south of Auckland. Skirmishes in the 1860s Waikato war took place at or near fortified churches at Mauku and Pukekohe East in September and October 1863.

The success of pioneering Chinese and Indian growers in the 1920s made Pukekohe the home of the reactionary White New Zealand League (1926) on the one hand, and on the other of the Pukekohe Indian Association.

The well-drained volcanic soil from Pukehohe–Bombay south to Pukekawa produces one-third of New Zealand’s fresh vegetables. The northern slopes of Pukekohe Hill are renowned for their potato crops.

Auckland volcanoes

Auckland’s landscape is dotted with the cones of volcanoes that erupted comparatively recently in geological time, with the oldest (Auckland Domain) erupting 140,000–150,000 years ago. There are 48 volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field, all within about 20 km of the city centre.

Auckland’s volcanic cones were important sites of Māori occupation. They were ideal for palisaded fortresses, and were usually ringed with terraces of housing, storage pits, and large gardens on the fertile surrounding soil. European settlers in turn favoured the warm northern slopes for housing, and quarried volcanic basalt and scoria for buildings, walls, railway lines and roads. While the wide lava fields are built over today, the higher slopes of most of the cones are reserved as parks.

Volcanoes interrupt a battle

In a traditional Māori account, Auckland’s volcanoes surfaced during a battle between the peoples of the Waitākere and Hūnua ranges. The Hūnua tohunga (priest) invoked the sun to rise early and blind the Waitākere warriors, and as a result many were killed. But when the Hūnua people advanced against remaining Waitākere forces, a shield of volcanic explosions across the isthmus stopped them in their tracks. Auckland’s scattered volcanoes stand as a remnant of the battle scene.

Auckland’s most visible volcanic cones

The largest, youngest and most recent is Rangitoto Island, which erupted only 600 years ago, ejecting as much lava as all the other Auckland volcanoes combined. The symmetrical cone and wide-spreading lava flow make it one of Auckland’s major icons. Nearby Browns Island (Motukorea) is the only Auckland volcano not to be quarried, and has a clearly visible symmetrical cone and crater, and a partial tuff ring. Maungawhau (Mt Eden) is the highest on the Auckland isthmus (196 m), with three overlapping cones, one with a deep conical crater. The terracing and pits of Waiohua’s settlement remain, and its summit is a tourist look-out point.

Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) is the largest after Rangitoto, 183 m high, with three craters. Its lava flow covered 46 sq m and reached Manukau Harbour. As the home of Kiwi Tāmaki, paramount chief of the Waiohua in the 18th century, it was probably the largest earth fort in the world, and was famed for kūmara gardens covering 1,000 hectares. Māngere mountain (107 m), the last of the Waiohua strongholds, dominates the landscape of South Auckland.

No Tree Hill

Maungakiekie was given its European name (One Tree Hill) by Sir John Logan Campbell, after a tōtara tree (Te Tōtara i Āhua) that stood on its summit. This was felled by a Pākehā settler in the 1850s. Campbell tried to replace the tōtara with a grove of trees, but only a single monterey pine tree survived. This became an Auckland landmark. After attacks by Māori protesters in 1994 and 2000 the tree was felled in 2001 for safety reasons.

Lakes in craters

Some of the craters filled with water, forming lakes and basins. Lake Pupuke (100-150,000 years ago) was probably formed by lava flowing back into a collapsed crater, which filled with fresh water. Ōrākei Basin and Panmure Basin were infiltrated with sea water.

Scarred volcanoes

Most of Auckland’s volcanic cones were modified by Māori and more extensively by Pākehā settlement. At least half have been made almost unrecognisable by quarrying: Mt Smart’s 50-m cone was completely excavated and large portions of Mt Albert (Ōwairaka) and Wiri mountains were taken for railway-line ballast. Several South Auckland cones disappeared in the course of the construction of Māngere airport and sewerage ponds.

The Franklin field

Further south, in the Franklin area, are much older volcanoes (500,000–1.5 million years). From Papakura to Pukekawa there are 80 ancient volcanoes, less striking than those nearer to Auckland because they have been weathered with age. The most extensive market gardens in the region are on this fertile volcanic soil, especially around Pukekohe and Bombay.

Hononga, rauemi nō waho

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Margaret McClure, 'Auckland places', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 September 2021)

He kōrero nā Margaret McClure, i tāngia i te 6 Dec 2007, updated 5 Aug 2016