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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > New Zealand > Auckland

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Auckland History

Auckland has long attracted eager immigrants, arriving to seek their fortune.

The first of many waves of Polynesian migrants are believed to have arrived in New Zealand over 1,000 years ago but the Maori people first settled here around 1350, constructing fortified villages on the surrounding volcanic peaks.

But the Maori population was decimated following the arrival of Europeans in the 1820s, mainly due to disease. In 1840, Te Kawau, the then most prominent chief of the Ngati Whatua tribe, offered Governor Hobson land around the present city of Auckland for the sum of £55 and some blankets.

The deal was struck with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. But within 20 years, the Maoris lost 40% of their land as a result.

Hobson became the governor of the new British colonial settlement, making it the capital of New Zealand. Its population swelled with immigrants, all keen to snap up land. By 1865, Auckland lost its capital status to Wellington.

Nevertheless, by the 1890s, more and more inhabitants were attracted from overseas, from Europe, China and India. The city expanded, its port developed and Auckland became the county’s commercial capital.

The 20th century brought trams, railways and cars, and the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959 linked the city to the Northern Shore.

The post-war period saw increased immigration, a baby boom, an influx of Maoris into the city as well as newcomers from the Cook Islands.

In the 1980s, tourism flourished, some declining manufacturing industries were replaced by biotech and creative services, while the finance sector dominated the landscape.

A relaxation in immigration policy opened the floodgates to Asians, particularly from Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. But the decade was also marked by the sinking of the anti-nuclear protest ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harbour by French intelligence services.

Today, Auckland’s diverse immigrants have lent the city a truly cosmopolitan feel.

Did you know?
• The original Maori name for Auckland is Tamaki Makaurau.
• Sir Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland in 1919.
• In 1999 and 2003, Auckland hosted the America’s Cup sailing contest.