Auckland is New Zealand’s "City of Sails."" After settlement by Maori around 1350, it began its colonial history as a port settlement, built on an isthmus flanked by two harbours: Waitemata Harbour to the north, and Manukau Harbour to the south. Notably, Auckland is the world’s only city built on an active volcano – active, but dormant, with 90 eruptions from the Auckland volcanic field in the past 90,000 years.
Auckland was New Zealand’s official capital for a short time during the mid-19th century, chosen by the country’s new governor William Hobson after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The settlement’s elevated status drew a steady flow of new arrivals, and that growth has rarely slowed since. Today, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and most populous urban area, with a population of 1,413,700 people – 31% of the country.
Auckland’s population is spread over an urban area of 1,103 square kilometres – a population density of 1,300 per square km. Inhabitants represent a vast array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds; there are large Maori, Pacific Islander and Asian communities, and almost 40% of Aucklanders were born overseas. This ‘melting pot’ character makes Auckland by far New Zealand’s most cosmopolitan city. Residents of Auckland praise its mild climate, excellent job market and educational facilities, and diverse leisure opportunities. These factors contributed to Auckland ranking fourth in a survey of the quality of life in major cities worldwide in 2009. However, Auckland is equally derided for poor public transport, expensive housing and terrible traffic woes – common complaints levelled at many of the world’s biggest cities.
Auckland is the economic capital of New Zealand, contributing 36% of the nation’s GDP. Most major international companies base their NZ operations there, and financial and business services make up a significant portion of the economy. Median personal income is higher than the national average, but this is balanced by a higher cost of living. Auckland’s academic community is significant, with five major tertiary institutions in the city. These include the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology (AUT), and a campus of Massey University.
Auckland was previously governed by a number of separate city and district councils, until the establishment of an amalgamated and unified government in 2010. This created a ‘super city’ with a single mayor (currently Len Brown) and twenty councillors forming the new Auckland Council. Auckland has several distinct areas – broadly, South Auckland, the central city, West Auckland and the North Shore - that each have a rather unique character and diverse local attractions. The city is a popular tourist gateway, welcoming around 72 per cent of New Zealand’s international visitors, who find plenty to see and do in the region.