Auckland History & Culture

Auckland has been captivating to passing travellers for 800 years....

New Zealand's indigenous people, the Maori, called this land "Tamaki Makau Rau", a maiden with 100 lovers. It was a place desired by many and fought over for its riches, including its forested hills, productive volcanic soils and harbours full of seafood.


The Maori

The first sailors to settle here were the Maori and in later years migrants from the Pacific Islands have contributed to the Polynesian population. You can take a walk through the city with a guide from the local iwi (tribe), visit the Auckland Museum or wander through the weekend markets at Otara and Avondale for the flavours, sounds and sights of the South Pacific. In the city centre, Auckland’s recent popularity has an international education destination has seen an explosion of ethnic shops, especially Asian-style eateries.



It is little wonder that Auckland’s early name should be Tamakimakaurau   (translated by some as 'the spouse contested by a hundred lovers’). By contrast, such were the contests of the past that Ngapuhi of the Bay of Islands referred to the harbour as Te Wai-o-te­ mate ('the waters of death'), a play on the traditional  name  of Waitemata  ('obsidian waters'), a description  suggesting that its surface sparkled in the sun like volcanic glass. In Te  Arawa tradition, the harbour was named by their ancestor, Tamatekapua.


Lord Auckland

The city was given its present name in 1840 by Governor Hobson, after his former commander, Lord Auckland (1784-1849), then Viceroy of India and a hero of the time. The following year came disaster and Lord Auckland’s ignominious recall, a setback reflected in the naming of a central street 'Khyber Pass' after the British reverse there. ‘Mount Eden’ preserves Lord Auckland’s family name. Lord Auckland’s statue stands near the Town Hall.



Today the iwi of Ngati Whatua-o-Orakei (the mana whenua of today' s Auckland city)  forms part of the wider 'Ngati Whatua confederation'  (this also embraces, among others,  Te Roroa, Te Uri-o-Hau and Te Taou to the north-west),  all with links to the Mahuhu­ ki-te-rangi ancestral canoe. Their origins extend back into the mists of time,  to well before the arrival of the ancestral canoes, with a common ancestor, Tuinutumuwhenua, so ancient as to be said to have simply emerged from the earth (although some suggest that his name may refer to life-saving water gushing from a spring).


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