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The Auckland metropolitan area in the North Island of New Zealand is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with a population approaching 1.4 million residents, 31 percent of the country's population. Demographic trends indicate that it will continue to grow faster than the rest of the country. Increasingly cosmopolitan, Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world, and has seen many people of Asian ethnicity move there in the last two decades. In Māori Auckland's name is Tāmaki-makau-rau, or the transliterated version of Auckland, Ākarana.
The 2009 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Auckland 4th place in the world on its list. In 2008, Auckland was classified as an Alpha-City in the World Cities Study Group's inventory by Loughborough University.
Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate major bodies of water.
Early Māori and Europeans
The isthmus was first settled around 1350 and was valued for its rich and fertile land. Many pā (fortified villages) were created, mainly on the volcanic peaks. Māori population in the area is estimated at about 20,000 people before the arrival of Europeans. The subsequent introduction of firearms, which began in Northland, upset the balance of power and led to devastating inter-tribal warfare, causing iwi who lacked the new weapons to seek refuge in areas less exposed to coastal raids. As a result, the region had relatively low numbers of Māori when European settlement of New Zealand began. There is, however, nothing to suggest that this was the result of a
deliberate European policy. On 27 January 1832, Joseph Brooks Weller, eldest
of the Weller brothers of Otago and Sydney bought land including the sites
of the modern cities of Auckland and North Shore and part of Rodney District
for "one large cask of powder" from "Cohi Rangatira".
After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840, the new
Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, chose the area as his new capital,
and named it after George Eden, Earl of Auckland, then Viceroy of India.
Auckland was officially declared New Zealand's capital in 1841, and the
transfer of the administration from Russell in the Bay of Islands was
completed in 1842. However, even in 1840 Port Nicholson (later Wellington)
was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its
proximity to the South Island, which was being settled much more rapidly,
and Wellington became the capital in 1865. Auckland was the principal city
of the Auckland Province until the provincial system was abolished in 1876.
Growth up to today
In the early 1860s, Auckland became a base against the Māori King Movement.
This, and continued road building towards the south into the Waikato,
enabled Pākehā (European New Zealanders) influence to spread from Auckland.
Its population grew fairly rapidly, from 1,500 in 1841 to 12,423 by 1864.
The growth occurred similarly to other mercantile-dominated cities, mainly
around the port and with problems of overcrowding and pollution.
Trams and railway lines shaped Auckland's rapid expansion in the early first
half of the 20th century, but soon afterward the dominance of the motor
vehicle emerged and has not abated since; arterial roads and motorways have
become both defining and geographically dividing features of the urban
landscape. They also allowed further massive expansion that resulted in the
growth of associated urban areas like the North Shore (especially after the
construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge), and Manukau City in the south.
A large percentage of Auckland is dominated by a very suburban style of
building, giving the city a very low population density. Some services like
public transport are costlier than in other higher-density cities, but
Aucklanders are still able to live in single-family dwellings similar to the
rest of the New Zealand population, although lot sizes tend to be smaller
than many other centres.
Geography and climate
Auckland straddles the Auckland Volcanic Field, which has produced
approximately 50 volcanoes. These take the form of cones, lakes, lagoons,
islands and depressions, and several have produced extensive lava flows.
Most of the cones have been partly or completely quarried away. The
individual volcanoes are all considered extinct, although the volcanic field
itself is merely dormant.
Unlike the explosive subduction-driven volcanism in the central North Island
such as at Mount Ruapehu and Lake Taupo, Auckland's volcanoes are fueled
entirely by basaltic magma. The most recent and by far the largest volcano,
Rangitoto Island, was formed within the last 1000 years, and its eruptions
destroyed the Māori settlements on neighbouring Motutapu Island some 700
years ago. Rangitoto's size, its symmetry, its position guarding the
entrance to Waitemata Harbour and its visibility from many parts of the
Auckland region make it Auckland's most iconic natural feature. Few birds
and insects inhabit the island because of the rich acidic soil and the type
of flora growing out of the rocky soil.
Harbours and Gulf
Auckland lies on and around an isthmus, less than two kilometres wide at its
narrowest point, between Mangere Inlet and the Tamaki River. There are two
harbours in the Auckland urban area surrounding this isthmus: Waitemata
Harbour to the north, which opens east to the Hauraki Gulf, and Manukau
Harbour to the south, which opens west to the Tasman Sea.
Bridges span parts of both harbours, notably the Auckland Harbour Bridge
crossing the Waitemata Harbour west of the Auckland Central Business
District (CBD). The Mangere Bridge and the Upper Harbour Bridge span the
upper reaches of the Manukau and Waitemata Harbours, respectively. In
earlier times, portage paths crossed the narrowest sections of the isthmus.
Several islands of the Hauraki Gulf are administered as part of Auckland
City, though they are not officially part of the Auckland metropolitan area.
Parts of Waiheke Island effectively function as Auckland suburbs, while
various smaller islands near Auckland are mostly zoned 'recreational open
space' or are nature sanctuaries.
Auckland has a warm-temperate climate, with warm, humid summers and mild,
damp winters. It is the warmest main centre of New Zealand and is also one
of the sunniest, with an average of 2060 sunshine hours per annum The
average daily maximum temperature is 23.7 °C in February, and 14.5 °C in
July, the absolute maximum recorded temperature is 32.4 °C, while the
absolute minimum is -2.5. High levels of rainfall occur almost year-round
with an average of 1240 mm per year spread over 137 'rain days'. Climatic
conditions vary in different parts of the city owing to geography such as
hills, land cover and distance from the sea, hence unofficial temperature
records exist, such as a maximum of 34°C in west Auckland. On 27 July 1939
Auckland received its only recorded snowfall.
The early morning calm on the isthmus during settled weather, before the sea
breeze rises, was described as early as 1853: "In all seasons, the beauty of
the day is in the early morning. At that time, generally, a solemn stillness
holds, and a perfect calm prevails..." Many Aucklanders used this time of
day to walk and run in parks.
Auckland is home to many cultures. The majority of inhabitants claim
European - predominantly British - descent, but substantial Māori, Pacific
Islander and Asian communities exist as well. Auckland has the largest
Polynesian population of any city in the world and a higher proportion of
people of Asian origin than the rest of New Zealand. Ethnic groups from all
corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the
country's most cosmopolitan city.
Positive aspects of Auckland life are its mild climate, plentiful employment
and educational opportunities, as well as numerous leisure facilities.
Meanwhile, traffic problems, the lack of good public transport, and
increasing housing costs have been cited by many Aucklanders as among the
strongest negative factors of living there, together with crime. Nonetheless
Auckland currently ranks 4th equal in a survey of the quality of life of
215 major cities of the world (2009 data). In 2006, Auckland placed 23rd on
the UBS list of the world's richest cities.
Auckland is popularly known as the "City of Sails" because the harbour is
often dotted with hundreds of yachts and has more per capita than any other
city in the world, with around 135,000 yachts and launches. Around 60,500 of
the country's 149,900 registered yachtsmen come from the Auckland Region.
Viaduct Basin also hosted two America's Cup challenges (2000 Cup and 2003
Cup), and its cafes, restaurants, and clubs add to Auckland's vibrant
nightlife. With the sheltered Waitemata Harbour at its doorstep, Auckland
sees many nautical events, and there are also a large number of sailing
clubs in Auckland, as well as Westhaven Marina, the largest of the Southern
High Street, Queen Street, Ponsonby Road, and Karangahape Road are very
popular with urban socialites. Newmarket and Parnell are up-market shopping
areas, while Otara's and Avondale's fleamarkets offer a colourful
alternative shopping experience. Newer shopping malls tend to be outside
city centres, with Sylvia Park (Sylvia Park, Auckland City), Botany Town
Centre (Howick, Manukau City) and Westfield Albany (Albany, North Shore
City) being the three largest.
The Waitemata Harbour has popular swimming beaches at Mission Bay, Devonport
Takapuna, and the west coast has popular surf spots such as Piha and
Muriwai. Many Auckland beaches are patrolled by surf lifesaving clubs, which
are part of Surf Life Saving Northern Region.
The most popular sports in Auckland are rugby union and cricket. Auckland
has a considerable number of rugby union and cricket grounds, and venues for
motorsports, tennis, badminton, netball, swimming, soccer, rugby league, and
many other sports.
Most major international corporations have an Auckland office, as the city
is the economic capital of the nation. The most expensive office space is
around lower Queen Street and the Viaduct Basin in the Auckland CBD, where
many financial and business services are located, which make up a large
percentage of the CBD economy. A large proportion of the technical and
trades workforce is based in the industrial zones of South Auckland.
The largest commercial and industrial areas of Greater Auckland are in the
southeast of Auckland City and the western parts of Manukau City, mostly
bordering the Manukau Harbour and the Tamaki River estuary.
Housing varies considerably between some suburbs having state owned housing
in the lower income neighbourhoods, to palatial waterfront estates,
especially on the Waitemata. Traditionally, the most common residence of
Aucklanders was a bungalow on a 'quarter acre' (1,000 m²), however
subdividing such properties with 'infill housing', has long been the norm.
Aucklanders' housing preferences resulting from a lack of apartments and
poor public transport has resulted in a large urban sprawl and reliance on
motor vehicles. This will probably continue, as the vast majority of
Aucklanders live in low-density housing, which is expected to remain at up
to 70% of the total share even in 2050.
In some areas, the Victorian villas are being increasingly torn down to make way for large plaster mansions with tennis courts and swimming pools. The demolition of the older properties is being combated by the Auckland City Council passing laws that cover heritage suburbs or streets. Auckland has been described as having 'the most extensive range of timbered housing with its classical details and mouldings in the world', many of them Victorian-Edwardian style houses.