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Cities in the Spotlight: Auckland, New Zealand

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

In today's post we will be traveling to Auckland, New Zealand. Enjoy!!


Auckland City Information

Auckland is a large metropolitan city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country and the fifth largest city in Oceania, Auckland has an urban population of about 1,463,000 (June 2021). It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, and which has a total population of 1,715,600. While Europeans continue to make up the plurality of Auckland's population, the city became multicultural and cosmopolitan in the late-20th century, with Asians accounting for 31% of the city's population in 2018. With its large population of Pasifika New Zealanders, Auckland is also home to the biggest ethnic Polynesian population in the world. The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki desired by many", in reference to the desirability of its natural resources and geography.

Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf to the east, the Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitākere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The surrounding hills are covered in rainforest and the landscape is dotted with 53 volcanic centres that make up the Auckland Volcanic Field. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitematā Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. Auckland is one of the few cities in the world to have a harbour on each of two separate major bodies of water.


Auckland Historical Significance

Early history

The Auckland isthmus was settled by Māori circa 1350, and was valued for its rich and fertile land. Many pā (fortified villages) were created, mainly on the volcanic peaks. By the early 1700s, Te Waiohua, a confederation of tribes such as Ngā Oho, Ngā Riki and Ngā Iwi, became the main influential force on the Auckland isthmus, with major pā located at Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill, Māngere Mountain and Maungataketake. The confederation came to an end around 1741, when paramount chief Kiwi Tāmaki was killed in battle by Ngāti Whātua hapū Te Taoū chief Te Waha-akiaki. From the 1740s onwards, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei became the major influential force on the Auckland isthmus. The Māori population in the area is estimated to have been about 20,000 before the arrival of Europeans. The introduction of firearms at the end of the eighteenth century, which began in Northland, upset the balance of power and led to devastating intertribal warfare beginning in 1807, 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 settlement by European New Zealanders began.

On 20 March 1840 in the Manukau Harbour area where Ngāti Whātua farmed, paramount chief Apihai Te Kawau signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the te reo Māori translation of the Treaty of Waitangi). Ngāti Whātua sought British protection from Ngāpuhi as well as a reciprocal relationship with the Crown and the Church. Soon after signing Te Tiriti, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei made a tuku (strategic gift) of 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) of land on the Waitematā Harbour to the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, for the new capital, which Hobson named for George Eden, Earl of Auckland, then Viceroy of India. Auckland was founded on 18 September 1840 and was officially declared New Zealand's capital in 1841, and the transfer of the administration from Russell (now Old Russell) in the Bay of Islands was completed in 1842. However, even in 1840 Port Nicholson (later renamed Wellington) was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island, and Wellington became the capital in 1865. After losing its status as capital, Auckland remained the principal city of the Auckland Province until the provincial system was abolished in 1876. In response to the ongoing rebellion by Hōne Heke in the mid-1840s, the government encouraged retired but fit British soldiers and their families to migrate to Auckland to form a defence line around the port settlement as garrison soldiers. By the time the first Fencibles arrived in 1848, the Northern War had concluded. Outlying defensive towns were then constructed to the south, stretching in a line from the port village of Onehunga in the west to Howick in the east. Each of the four settlements had about 800 settlers; the men were fully armed in case of emergency, but spent nearly all their time breaking in the land and establishing roads.

In the early 1860s, Auckland became a base against the Māori King Movement, and the 12,000 Imperial soldiers stationed there led to a strong boost to local commerce. This, and continued road building towards the south into the Waikato Region, enabled Pākehā (European New Zealanders) influence to spread from Auckland. The city's population grew fairly rapidly, from 1,500 in 1841 to 3,635 in 1845, then 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. Auckland's population of ex-soldiers was far greater than that of other settlements: about 50 percent of the population was Irish, which contrasted heavily with the majority English settlers in Wellington, Christchurch or New Plymouth. Most of the Irish (though not all) were from Protestant Ulster. The majority of settlers in the early period were assisted by receiving cheap passage to New Zealand. Modern history

Trams and railway lines shaped Auckland's rapid expansion in the early first half of the 20th century. However, after the Second World War the city's transport system and urban form became increasingly dominated by the motor vehicle. Arterial roads and motorways became both defining and geographically dividing features of the urban landscape. They also allowed further massive expansion that resulted in the growth of suburban areas such as the North Shore (especially after the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the late 1950s), and Manukau City in the south.

Economic deregulation in the mid-1980s led to very dramatic changes to Auckland's economy and many companies relocated their head offices from Wellington to Auckland. The region was now the nerve centre of the entire national economy. Auckland also benefited from a surge in tourism, which brought 75 percent of New Zealand's international visitors through its airport. Auckland's port handled 31 percent of the country's container trade in 2015.

The face of urban Auckland changed when the government's immigration policy began allowing immigrants from Asia in 1986. This has led to Auckland becoming a multi-cultural city, with people of all ethnic backgrounds. According to the 1961 census data, Māori and Pacific Islanders comprised 5 percent of Auckland's population; Asians less than 1 percent. By 2006 the Asian population had reached 18.0 percent in Auckland, and 36.2 percent in the central city. New arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea gave a distinctive character to the areas where they clustered, while a range of other immigrants introduced mosques, Hindu temples, halal butchers and ethnic restaurants to the suburbs.


Travel to Auckland

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Paris may be the city of love, but Auckland is the city of many lovers, according to its Māori name, Tāmaki Makaurau. Those lovers so desired this place that they fought over it for centuries. It’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. Its two harbours frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland. From any of its numerous vantage points you’ll be surprised how close the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean come to kissing and forming a new island. Whether it’s the ruggedly beautiful west-coast surf beaches, or the glistening Hauraki Gulf with its myriad islands, the water's never far away. And within an hour’s drive from the city's high-rise heart, there are dense tracts of rainforest, thermal springs, wineries, and wildlife reserves. No wonder Auckland is regularly rated one of the world's top cities for quality of life and livability.


Must See Sites

One Tree Hill; Maungakiekie was the largest and most spiritually significant Māori pā (fortified village) prior to British arrival. At the top of this volcanic cone (at 182m high) there is an obelisk and epic 360-degree views of Auckland and its harbours. It is also the site of the grave of John Logan Campbell (the ‘father of Auckland’) who gifted the 230-hectare area to the city in 1901. He also requested that a memorial be built to the dispossessed Māori people at the summit. Today there is only a stump of the last ‘one tree’. The original tōtara tree was cut down in 1852 by a Pākehā (white) settler, either because it was significant to the Māori people or because he needed firewood – depending on which account you believe. In response, John Logan Campbell planted a stand of Monterey pines of which only one lone tree survived. That tree was felled in a chainsaw attack in 2000 by a Māori activist who wanted to raise awareness of the government's fiscal envelope policy – a target to settle all historic Treaty claims for NZ$1 billion – on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 2015 new native trees were planted on the site, with a view to one day having a single pohutukawa or tōtara.

Auckland Museum; This imposing neoclassical temple (1929), capped with an impressive copper-and-glass dome (2007), dominates the Auckland Domain and is a prominent part of the Auckland skyline, especially when viewed from the harbour. Admission packages can be purchased, which incorporate a highlights tour and a Māori cultural performance ($40 to $55). The displays of Pacific Island and Māori artefacts on the museum's ground floor are essential viewing. Highlights include a 25m war canoe and an extant carved meeting house (remove your shoes before entering). There's also a fascinating display on Auckland's volcanic field, including an eruption simulation, and the upper floors showcase military displays, fulfilling the building's dual role as a war memorial. Auckland's main Anzac commemorations take place at dawn on 25 April at the cenotaph in the museum's forecourt.

Villa Maria; Clearly the roar of jets doesn’t bother grapes, as NZ’s most awarded winery is just 4km from the airport. The parklike grounds of Villa Maria are a green oasis in the encircling industrial zone. Short tours ($5) take place at 11am and 2pm. There’s a charge for tastings ($10 to $15, refundable on purchase), but lingering over a lunch of wine and antipasto (platters $25 to $55, lunch $29 to $38) on the restaurant's terrace sure beats hanging around the departure lounge. A series of concerts is held here every January and February featuring big international artists popular with the 40- to 50-something wine-swilling demographic.

Auckland Zoo; At this modern, spacious zoo, the big foreigners tend to steal the attention from the timid natives, but if you can wrestle the kids away from the tigers and orangutans, there's a well-presented NZ section. Called Te Wao Nui, it's divided into six ecological zones: Coast (seals, penguins), Islands (mainly lizards, including NZ's pint-sized dinosaur, the tuatara), Wetlands (ducks, herons, eels), Night (kiwi, naturally, along with frogs, native owls and weta), Forest (birds) and High Country (cheekier birds and lizards).

Mount Eden; From the top of Auckland’s highest volcanic cone (196m), the entire isthmus and both harbours are laid bare. The symmetrical crater (50m deep) is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (the Food Bowl of Mataaho, the god of things hidden in the ground) and is considered tapu (sacred). Do not enter it, but feel free to explore the remainder of the mountain. The remains of pā terraces and food-storage pits are clearly visible. Until recently it was possible to drive right up to the summit, but concerns over erosion have led to vehicle access being restricted to travellers with limited mobility. Paths lead up the mountain from six different directions and the walk only takes around 15 minutes, depending on your fitness. A network of boardwalks was established in mid-2020 to help protect the historical and cultural significance of the site. Start and finish your exploration of Mt Eden at the nearby Maungawhau Visitor Experience Centre. Opened in late 2019, this excellent visitor centre showcases the geological and Māori cultural history of Maungawhau/Mt Eden. Highlights include an interesting 10-minute video about Auckland's volcanic field, and there's a good cafe with innovative brunch fare and fine views of the city's isthmus location.

Auckland Art Gallery; Auckland's premier art repository has a striking glass-and-wood atrium grafted onto its 1887 French chateau frame. It showcases the best of NZ art, along with important works by Pieter Bruegel the Younger, Guido Reni, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse. Highlights include the intimate 19th-century portraits of tattooed Māori subjects by Charles Goldie, and the starkly dramatic text-scrawled canvases of Colin McCahon.


Must Try Food & Drinks

Pavlova; Delicate as the ballerina it was named after, Pavlova is the quintessential summer dessert. Whipped cream is typically dolloped on top of a snowy meringue, followed by a pop of color in the form of fruit, preferably the tart varieties which contrast the sweetness of the meringue. Research suggests Pavlova is a descendant of the German torte and was invented in the 1920s during Anna Pavlova's tour of Australia and New Zealand, although the exact inventor is still debated. The first recipe for Pavlova appeared in print in 1926, although it was not the dessert we know today, but was instead a multi-colored gelatine dish. The base of the cake is prepared almost identically as any meringue, by beating egg whites stiffly, then incorporating sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch. Traditional toppings include whipped cream or lemon curd, and the dessert is often prepared during Christmastime.

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream; Hokey pokey is a New Zealander ice cream variety consisting of vanilla-flavored ice cream with small lumps of honeycomb toffee dispersed throughout it. Although it is produced in New Zealand, this ice cream variety is regularly exported to Japan, where it has achieved a quite popular status over the years. The name hokey pokey refers to the New Zealand term denoting honeycomb toffee.

KiwiBurger; Kiwiburger is a hamburger consisting of a toasted bun that is sandwiched with a four-ounce (113 g) beef patty, fried egg, beetroot, grilled onions, and additional ingredients such as tomato, lettuce, cheese, mustard, and ketchup. The burger was an invention of Bryan Old who came up with it as a nostalgic take on the typical New Zealand hamburger of yesteryear, prior to the introduction of McDonald's to the New Zealand market in 1976. Nowadays, Kiwiburger can be found in burger joints across the country.

Bacon and Egg Pie; Bacon and egg pie is a New Zealander favorite consisting of a combination of flaky pastry, egg yolks, and salty bacon. It is a staple at picnics throughout the country, and many people recommend consuming the pie when it cools down. Once served, it is recommended to pair it with ketchup or any kind of tomato sauce.

Māori Boil-Up; Boil-up is a unique Māori technique of preparing meat and vegetables by boiling them in a large pot filled with water. The choice of meat can be anything from pork, beef, and chicken to goat and lamb, but it should be cut into large chunks. Typical vegetables include watercress, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and sweet potatoes known as kumara. When served, boil-up looks like a thick soup or a thin stew.

Mince and Cheese Pie; Mince and cheese pie is a traditional New Zealand meal. The pie is prepared with a shortcrust pastry shell filled with a combination of cheese cubes and mince. The mince is typically made with onions, garlic, carrots, ground beef, mushrooms, tomato paste, and beef stock, and it is seasoned with oregano and freshly ground salt and pepper. Once the filling is prepared, the pie is sealed with puff pastry on top and baked until golden-brown in color. It is recommended to serve it with steamed peas on the side.

New Zealand Fish and Chips; This dish is a New Zealander version of the classic English fish and chips. It is believed that fish and chips was introduced to New Zealand before World War I by British settlers. The dish is traditionally served wrapped in newspaper, and it's typically eaten on a Friday night as a takeaway treat. The fish is usually tarahiki, hoki, red cod, blue warehou, or elephant fish (elephant shark) - battered, fried, then served with chips.

Whitebait Fritters; Whitebait fritters are considered a delicacy in New Zealand and they are the most popular way of preparing whitebait. The recipe is quite simple, which is in contrast to the rather pricey fish. The batter is made from eggs and flour, to which fry fish is added, then seasoned with salt and pepper, but purists will advise to limit the use of flour and just use egg whites instead of whole eggs as too much eggs, flour, and spices can interfere with the taste of fish. These fritters can be consumed as a snack, enjoyed as an appetizer, or even a main meal when paired with a fresh salad on the side.


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