At 37 degrees south latitude, the Auckland urban area lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, low 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 and Waitemata harbours.
The birth of Auckland
After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840 the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, had the task of choosing a capital for the colony. At the time Kororareka, now called Old Russell, in the Bay of Islands, served as the effective capital. However, Kororareka was very remote from the rest of the country and had a notorious reputation for drunkenness and immorality.
The obvious choice even then was probably Port Nicholson. Centrally situated at the south of the North Island, close to the South Island, and growing fast, it had a lot to commend it. But it was a settlement built by and dominated by the New Zealand Company and the Wakefield brothers. Furthermore, it already had a bad reputation with the Māori for unscrupulous or even illegal occupation of land.
On the initial recommendation of the missionary Henry Williams, and supported by the Surveyor General, Felton Mathew, Hobson selected the south side of the Waitemata Harbour as his capital. The Chief Magistrate, Captain William Symonds, soon purchased the necessary land from the Ngati Whatua owners, and the foundation ceremony took place at 1pm, 18 September 1840, probably on the higher ground at the top end of present-day Queen Street.
From the outset a steady flow of new arrivals from within New Zealand and from overseas came to the new capital. From early times the eastern side of the settlement remained reserved for government officials while mechanics and artisans, the so-called unofficial settlers, were directed to the western side. This social division still persists in modern Auckland.
Loss of capital status
Eventually Port Nicholson became the capital and, now known as Wellington, remains so today. The advantages of a central position became even more obvious as the South Island grew in prosperity with the discovery of gold in Otago, and with the development of sheepfarming and refrigeration.
Geography and climate
Auckland straddles the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. The 48 or so volcanoes take the form of cones, lakes, lagoons, islands and depressions. Some of the cones have been partly or completely quarried away. The volcanoes are all individually extinct although the volcanic field itself is merely dormant. The most recent and by far the largest volcano, Rangitoto Island, formed within the last 1000 years. Its size, its symmetry, its position guarding the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour and its visibility from many parts of the Auckland region make it Auckland's most iconic natural feature.
Auckland City lies on an isthmus, less than 2km wide at its narrowest point between Manukau Harbour and Tamaki River. The Waitemata Harbour, which opens to the Hauraki Gulf, separates the isthmus from North Shore City and north. The Manukau Harbour, which opens to the Tasman Sea to the west, separates the isthmus from Manukau City and the south.
The Auckland Harbour Bridge spans the Waitemata Harbour and provides a road link between North Shore City and Auckland City.
Auckland city has a warm-temperate climate, with warm summers and slightly cooler but lengthy winters. January temperatures average 21-24 °C (February and March are typically warmer than January, however), and July temperatures average 14-16 °C. High levels of rainfall occur almost year-round (over 1000mm per year), especially in winter.
Auckland city serves as a home to many cultures. The majority of inhabitants (roughly 60%) claim European — predominantly British — descent, but substantial Maori and Pacific Island communities exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. Comparably-sized communities of people of East Asian origin also live in Auckland, due to New Zealand's world-leading level of immigration, which primarily flows into Auckland. Ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country's most cosmopolitan city.
Aucklanders and other New Zealanders have a mostly light-hearted "love-hate" relationship. Stereotypically, Aucklanders view parts of the country "south of the Bombay Hills" as provincial and unsophisticated, while the rest of the country sees Aucklanders as brash and arrogant. (The Bombay Hills form the Auckland Region's southern boundary, over which State Highway 1 runs south out of Auckland to the Waikato region). The term Jafa serves as a (mostly) joking term of abuse referring to Aucklanders.
Auckland has a significant traffic congestion problem. A motorway network, planned decades ago, remains incomplete as of 2004. In the early 2000s several motorway construction projects commenced in and around the central motorway junction ("Spaghetti Junction").
In July 2003 the Britomart Transport Centre opened in central Auckland. It provides a central interconnection point for buses, trains and ferries. During its planning period it had provoked much controversy spanning multiple mayoral terms.
In March 2004 the Mayor of Auckland City, John Banks, published a proposal for the Eastern Transport Corridor. Vociferous campaigners both supported and opposed the NZ$4 billion proposal (see external links below for related sites). John Banks subsequently issued a new, considerably cheaper (in the realm of NZ$2 billion) plan which would occasion less disruption than the first proposal: the revised plan has won greater support among the population of Auckland.
Bus services provide the bulk of public transport, with the run-down commuter trains offering a limited service. Plans for light rail, mooted over the years, seem unlikely to proceed. The local government elections in September 2004 centred largely around candidates' policies on public transport, with the incumbent Auckland City mayor John Banks promoting the "Eastern Corridor" motorway plan, and his main rivals (former Auckland City mayor Christine Fletcher and businessman Dick Hubbard – the eventual winner) supporting public transport alternatives like light rail and improving existing bus and rail services.
Auckland International Airport, New Zealand's largest airport, lies beside the Manukau Harbour, in the southern suburb of Mangere. Ongoing negotiations concern the development of a second airport at Whenuapai, a disused military airbase in the north-west of the Auckland conurbation.
Landmarks and places
Territorial authorities, suburbs, communities
Many of these Cities and Districts also include rural land.
Three District Health Boards (DHBs) cover the greater Auckland region:
List of Auckland suburbs
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