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Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland (population 1,045,170 (2001 census)) is the largest metropolitan area in New Zealand. It consists of five local council areas. They are North Shore City in the north, Waitakere City in the west, Auckland City in the center and Manukau City and Papakura District in the south. Note that Auckland City is only part, albeit the central and most populous part, of the wider Auckland metropolitan area which is the subject of this article. The Auckland Region (population 1,158,891 (2001 census)) also encompasses the Rodney and Franklin districts.

Auckland Skytower

The majority of inhabitants are of European (roughly 60%), predominantly British, descent, but there are also substantial Maori and Pacific Island communities. In fact, Auckland is described as the largest Polynesian 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.

At 37 degrees south latitude, Auckland is situated between two major harbours. The Manukau Harbour opens to the Tasman Sea on the west. The major port is on the Waitemata Harbour, which opens to the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean on the east. A narrow isthmus of land separates the two harbours.

Auckland is built on the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. The approximately 48 volcanoes take the form of cones, lakes, lagoons, islands and depressions. Some of the cones have been partly or completed quarried away. The volcanoes are all individually extinct although the Field itself is merely dormant. The most recent and by far the largest volcano is Rangitoto Island which 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 Aucklandís most iconic natural feature.

The city's climate is warm-temperate, 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's Sky Tower is the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 metres.

Auckland International Airport is the country's largest airport and is located beside the Manukau Harbour, in the southern suburb of Mangere.

The Birth of Auckland

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in early 1840 the new governor, William Hobson was faced with the task of choosing a capital for the colony. At the time the effective capital was Kororareka, now called Old Russell, in the Bay of Islands. However Kororareka was very remote from the rest of the country and had a notorious reputations for drunkenness and immorality.

The obvious choice even then was probably Port Nicholson. Centrally situated at the bottom of the North 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 Maori for unscrupulous or even illegal occupation of land.

On the initial recommendation of the missionary Henry Williamson, and supported by the Surveyor General, Felton Mathew, Hobson selected the south side of the Waitemata Harbour as his capital. The necessary land was soon purchased from the owners by the Chief Magistrate, Captain William Symonds, and the foundation ceremony took place at 1pm, September 18 1840, probably on the higher ground at the top end of what is now Queen Street.

From early times the eastern side of the settlement was 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. From the outset there was a steady flow of new arrivals from within New Zealand and from overseas.

Eventually the capital did move to Port Nicholson, since renamed Wellington. 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 the development of sheep industry.

See also: George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, William Hobson

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