A Trip to Australia and New Zealand
Auckland - History Notes
Auckland is situated in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. Archeologists believe that the Maori people first occupied the isthmus on which it is located in about 1350 AD. Because of the many good anchorages in the bays and coves nearby, European whalers and sealers visited frequently during the later part of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. Joseph Weller purchased land in what is today Auckland City in 1832. New Zealand's first governor, William Hobson, chose it as his capital after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in January 1840. Hobson named the new city that he was to begin building Auckland after George Eden, Earl of Auckland and then Viceroy of India.
Prior to Governor Hobson's move to Auckland, the center of all British political activity in New Zealand had been Russell and Waitangi in the Bay of Islands further to the north. Because of that background, the Bay of Islands remained the focus of much of the history of New Zealand for another decade, but as more immigrants arrived in the country political interest quickly moved south. During this period the activities of the New Zealand Company were very important and they were present in several parts of the South Island. Early on it was realized that Auckland was situated too far north to govern a country that was rapidly expanding and in 1865 the capital of the colony was moved to Wellington.
After losing it's status as the political capital of New Zealand, Auckland remained a commercial center of great significance and today it is known as the economic nexus of the country. It is also the most populous urban area in the entire country and its citizens probably have the highest average annual income. One look at the harbors and coves makes it clear that Aucklanders also own more sail boats and motor launches than do the inhabitants of any other city in the country. One of our bus drivers assured me that there are more people in Auckland than there are boats - " but not by very many." Surveys done by countless organizations that attempt to measure living conditions consistently rate Auckland very high on their lists of major world cities. Mercer rated it as number four in the world in 2009 and the Economist put it at number eight.
As the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country, Auckland also has some of the less attractive elements of big city life. Unlike most of the rest of the cities in New Zealand, in Auckland the individual automobile is a more important means of transportation than is mass transit. As a result, it is more difficult for tourists to get around in the city and city traffic problems are more pronounced than elsewhere. From what we experienced on our very brief visit, it would appear that the people that one meets on the street are more impersonal than elsewhere and the statistics say that there are higher crime rates in Auckland than in the smaller cities. One has to be very careful here. The less desirable aspects of this city are in comparison to the rest of the country - not to other places in other countries that we have visited. Auckland is a very friendly place and the high rating that it receives from world travelers is well deserved. We definitely want to return one day in the future to see more of it's many attractions.