Story: Auckland region

Open to the ocean east and west, Auckland has a casual, confident air. Splendid harbours and beaches, a mild climate and a buoyant culture attract tourists and immigrants from around the world.

Full story by Margaret McClure
Main image: Beach football, Mission Bay

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The Auckland region lies between two coastlines, and beaches are within easy reach. To the west is the Tasman Sea, which pounds rugged beaches such as Piha. To the east is the Pacific Ocean coastline, with sheltered, sandy bays. Here too is the Hauraki Gulf, dotted with islands including Waiheke and Rangitoto.

Auckland city is on a narrow strip between two harbours: the Waitematā and the wide, shallow Manukau. Further north is the Kaipara Harbour, a habitat for wading birds.

Volcanic cones mark the skyline, and the Waitākere Ranges rise steeply in the west. The major river is the Waikato in the south.

Early history

Among the Māori names for the Auckland isthmus is Tāmaki-makau-rau (Tāmaki of a hundred lovers). Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Pāoa and other tribes settled there, growing kūmara (sweet potatoes) in the fertile soil. European traders and missionaries arrived in the 1820s. In 1840 Governor William Hobson set up the town of Auckland at Tāmaki. It was the country’s capital until 1865.

Māori–European conflict over land led to war in the 1860s, and tribal land claims continue today.

From the 1870s the region began to grow, exporting gold, kauri timber and kauri gum.

Rapid growth

During the 20th century Auckland city grew faster than other centres, and became New Zealand’s main city. New motorways encouraged urban sprawl and a reliance on private cars. Traffic congestion is a chronic problem.


Auckland is home to one-third of New Zealanders – 1,415,550 residents in 2013. Most immigrants choose to settle in this multicultural region. Asians, Pacific Islanders and Māori form 48% of the population.


Whether born in New Zealand, Britain, Korea, Somalia or Samoa, Aucklanders express their diverse culture and heritage through music, art, festivals, churches, markets, theatre and other activities. The city has important museums, orchestras and art galleries, and is the centre of the film, music and publishing industries. Well-known artists have included hip-hop musician Che Fu, dance group Black Grace, and the late painter Colin McCahon.

Sport and leisure

Yachting on the harbour is a favourite pastime – Auckland is known as the City of Sails. There are 100 beaches an hour’s drive from the central city, for swimming, fishing, or having a barbecue. Rugby and cricket are played at Eden Park, and tennis is a popular summer sport.

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How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure. 'Auckland region', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-15