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The Founding of Auckland to Modern Day Mecca City

Auckland City: It has been said that the Maori people considered the Tamaki Isthmus so desirable that they gave that unusual land bridge between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours on which modern metropolitan Auckland now stands, a name speaking of human passion, Tamaki-makau-rau, the maiden contested for by a hundred lovers.

Its attractions were many: fertile soil, unique strategic advantages, portages by which canoes could be moved from east to west coasts, and volcanic cones so suitable for fortification that nature might almost have designed them for that purpose.

Tribes fought long and savagely to possess this desirable area. Especially was this so in the half-century before New Zealand became a Crown colony, and most markedly around the 1820s when the recently introduced musket gave tribal wars a new dimension of devastation.

European travellers viewing the isthmus in the 1820s and 1830s remarked on how its depopulated condition contrasted desolately with past evidences of widespread settlement and cultivation.

In 1840 Maori inhabitants were still relatively few, and the area was almost devoid of European settlement; one or two missionaries, a handful of pit-sawyers and a few others.

The proclamation issued early in 1840 by the newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, to the effect that no land purchases in New Zealand would be considered valid unless confirmed by Crown grant, scattered the school of land-sharks which had been lying in wait for some months in the outer Hauraki Gulf maturing plans for buying huge tracts for a song from Maori owners.

Only two young Scots, William Brown and John Logan Campbell remained to be solitary spectators of the activities of the party which began to set up Auckland, New Zealand's first permanent capital in September 1840.

The placing of the seat of government beside the Waitemata Harbour was literally "Hobson's choice". After the Treaty signing ceremony at Waitangi on February 6, 1840, the Lieutenant-Governor gave urgent attention to the task of selecting and surveying a site for the capital of the new colony.

Kororareka in the Bay of Islands was flawed by notoriety, and too remote moreover from the centre of concentrated settlement of Maori people whose wellbeing was supposed to be the Governor's chief concern.

Port Nicholson at the southern end of the island where New Zealand Company settlers had recently arrived was regarded as equally unacceptable.

To place the seat of government there might seem to sanction that Company's irregular land purchases and to inflate the importance of European rather than Maori settlement.

Hobson Inspects the Site: The veteran missionary Henry Williams was the first to extol the merits of the Tamaki Isthmus and to interest Hobson in its possibilities as a capital.

Hobson made two inspections. The first, in February 1840, was cut short by the onset of a paralytic stroke.

The second made in July by the convalescing Hobson was encouraged by a very favourable report on the area by the Surveyor-General, Felton Mathew.

After careful examination Hobson made his choice-"the south side of the Waitemata in the district of the Thames".

On September 15 the barque Anna Watson arrived in Waitemata Harbour from the Bay of Islands to set up the capital, Auckland.

On board were seven Government officers led by Hobson's agent (the colony's Chief Magistrate, Captain William Symonds), a few other cabin passengers including Mathew's wife, and in steerage, 32 mechanics with their wives and children.

This group may be considered the founders of Auckland.

Within three days Symonds had obtained the consent of the Maori owners to the purchase of the necessary land. At 1 p.m. on September 18 came the founding ceremony.

Symonds hoisted the British flag in a most conspicuous part of the area Mathew proposed should be the centre of the new town.

According to the report of Mrs Mathew in her journal, when the flag was run up and a salute of 21 guns fired, "Her Majesty's health was then most rapturously drunk with cheers long and loud ... to the evident delight of the Natives".

On the flagstaff was cut the name "Auckland", thereby honouring the man who had once been Hobson's patron and was at that time Governor General of India.

The ceremony had taken place, it seems, at a high spot behind the bay which, now reclaimed, forms part of Auckland's main thoroughfare, Queen Street. On the shore was erected the Government store.

In the next few months "non-official" settlers encamped near by and the bay soon became a centre of business activity. The early name "Store Bay" gave way to "Commercial Bay".

Since it was at the adjoining bay that the artisans employed by the Government in construction work were located, this became known as Mechanics' Bay.

The bay further east again was reserved to Hobson's officials and was called Officials' Bay. It was also known as "Exclusion Bay"; and many settlers considered this physical separation was a ridiculous attempt by self important officials to set themselves up as a colonial aristocracy.

Whether because of Mathew's arbitrary demarcations or not, it became the custom of Auckland people of means, standing or social aspiration to gravitate to the eastern side of the town.

Quite early, eastern districts and suburbs in Auckland acquired the social cachet which they have not lost today.

Southern Outcry: The news that Hobson had selected an area "yet a wilderness" as capital, without so much as an inspection of the harbour and township of Port Nicholson, enraged the New Zealand Company settlers there.

A spokesman of the Company's board in England denounced Hobson's policy as "dictated by a spirit of reckless hostility to this Company".

For his part Hobson confessed to a distrust of the Company's publicity which was "created by selfish men for interested purposes".

Writing to the Colonial Secretary, Hobson urged him "to direct emigration to the proposed capital" where there was "a more genial climate and a more productive soil" than at Port Nicholson.

Relations between the Governor and the Cook Strait settlers became even worse when Hobson, by advertisement, tried to entice to Auckland carpenters, bricklayers, and other mechanics from Port Nicholson where they had been conveyed by the New Zealand Company at no small expense.

The Wellington settlers nursed their feud with Hobson till his death in September 1842 but their suspicion of the "artificial settlement" he had created long outlived the Governor.

It was an important ingredient in the provincial rivalry between Auckland and Wellington that persisted through a greater part of the 19th century.

When it became known that Auckland had been chosen as capital, settlers began to flow in from other parts of New Zealand and from Australia.

For some months they were, in effect squatters since land could not be bought from the Crown until Felton Mathew had completed his survey.

His first task was to make an overall plan of the whole area purchased from the Maoris. The result was the "spider-web plan" - or so critics called it-characterised in its eastern portion (roughly that area occupied today by the University of Auckland, Albert Park and their environs) by a series of quadrants, circuses and crescents.

The concentric plan which was mocked at the time as a blunder, a grotesque imitation of Bath, Mathew's own birthplace, has modern defenders who see in it a realistic attempt to layout streets in keeping with the unusual configuration of that part of central Auckland.

The design was later modified considerably, but the interesting layout of some parts of the inner-city area of Auckland today owes much to Mathew's original conception.

It is less easy to defend the next stage of Mathew's survey. Each of the town allotments he marked off for the first Government auction held on April 19 1841 was deep and with access to a rear lane.

This played into the hands of speculative purchasers who took advantage of the double frontage to subdivide their allotments leaving lanes of only 16 feet between subdivisions as rights-of-way to the main thoroughfares.

Ten years later much of this area, within a stone's throw of Queen Street, had degenerated into an unhealthy and noisome slum with tortuous alleys, huddled tenements and choked drains.

High Price of Land: Hobson, who had officially moved to Auckland in February 1841 was elated when very high prices were realised at the first auction of land conducted by the Government there.

They seemed to confirm the wisdom of his choice and to hold promise of an assured income from land revenue for the administration.

James Stephen, senior official of the Colonial Office at Whitehall, was unable to share in Hobson's jubilation. He regarded it as "quite preposterous" that land "should fetch as high a price in Auckland as in the immediate vicinity of London or Liverpool".

He suspected a short-lived speculative bubble. And for this view there was much to be said.

For months, settlers, many of them Australian, had been gathering for the sole object of speculative buying at this widely advertised land auction.

The next sale which was of outlying "suburban" land, though yielding lower prices, showed the presence of a similar land-jobbing element which included in fact certain of the Governor's officials.

Once again some of the allotments were quickly cut up and sold off as small-even minute - parcels of land. A South Australian land speculator, Tod, who subdivided his suburban purchase as the village of "Parnell" provided the most notorious example of this practice.

In the pioneer days that followed, Auckland's development was unlike that of the other settlements further south in New Zealand in three respects: the unplanned nature of the community; the extent to which Hobson's "proclamation town" (so named by its detractors) relied on the Government's financial position; and the close links with the Maori people.

Most of the main settlements of the 1840s, at least in theory, represented a planned community ideal. Not for a moment could this be said of Auckland.

The majority of its early immigrants were a random inflow mainly from Australia; "settlers and store¬keepers, speculators and labourers, a medley of humanity" is how one early historian described them.

Some travellers migrated from the Bay of Islands believing that the chance to make money had shifted with the capital.

By such a route came James Williamson, a founder of the Bank of New Zealand, and Frederick Whitaker, later to be Superintendent of the Province and Premier of the colony.

Many more left the Bay of Islands during and after the 1845 Hone Heke rebellion.

The Immigrant Groups: There were but a few organised groups of immigrants in the early years. The best known was the first; the Scottish immigrants who came to Auckland in October 1842 on the Duchess of Argyle and the Jane Gifford, the first vessels to bring settlers direct to Auckland from Britain.

The 552 passengers, distressed labourers and their families from Paisley, had a bleak welcome when they anchored in Mechanics Bay. They found Auckland sunk deep in depression.

One of them in later years recollected that Auckland in 1842 was "a queer wee town" with just a few frail houses and "worst of all, their [there] appeared to be nothing for us to do". Many of the new arrivals simply swelled the ranks of the unemployed.

Shortly after came two shiploads of "Parkhurst Boys", as the 72 boys between 12 and 20 years of age from the famous reformatory were called.

About half received pardons on arrival; the remainder had to undergo a period of indentured service. They did not get a friendly reception.

Local citizens feared an increase in vice and crime that would discredit the settlement.

Some of the lads did indeed resort to crime. Moreover, the depressed environment was scarcely one in which the youths could easily rehabilitate themselves.

It is not surprising that the experiment was not repeated.

The next group of assisted immigrants were the Fencibles. Between 1847 and 1852, 721 Imperial Army pensioners accompanied by their wives and children were brought in to reinforce the military position of Auckland which Hone Heke's rebellion of 1845 had exposed as dangerously insecure.

The Fencibles were placed about seven to ten miles out, on the perimeter of settlement, in four military villages - Onehunga, Otahuhu, Panmure and Howick, which were intended to provide a cover to the southern approaches to the capital.

Auckland's economic wellbeing heavily depended an the financial condition of the Government in the first few years of the colony.

The financial difficulties of the administration in 1842 and the problems of the local business community were closely related; and bath seemed to confirm Stephen's suspicion that there was too much of a speculative bubble in Auckland's beginnings.

The high prices of the first land sales were not to be repeated for some years. It was said that by 1844 Auckland land could be bought far a quarter of the price paid in 1841.

The falling away of the volume of land sold throughout the colony as a whole put a particular strain upon Auckland, for land sales were, with customs duties, the major source of revenue of the Government, and to the solvency of the Government, the commercial fortunes of Auckland were closely linked.

Economic Set-Back: The Auckland settlement sank into a depression in 1842 from which it did not emerge until 1845.

No staple export was developed to attract either immigrants or capital from abroad, and this impression of Auckland's lack of prospects got ample publicity, almost as an act of policy, in the New Zealand Journal, paper of the New Zealand Company.

In 1844 Governor FitzRoy in an attempt to extricate his administration from the financial crisis by which it was prostrated, resorted to a quite unauthorised issue of debentures.

This perilously inflationary expedient of using paper money was imitated by private tradesmen and local organisations including the Church Missionary Society when it formed its own Bank of Issue at St. John's College, Tamaki.

The IOUs of shopkeepers and others for as little as 2td circulated with FitzRoy's debentures as a medium of exchange; and like them were rarely convertible at anything approaching face value.

But for the Maori people there would have been great hardship in Auckland during these years. From the beginning Maori had contributed much to material standards in the settlement. They were numerically significant.

Even in the 1850s, when the population of the Auckland province had grown to 15,000, it was estimated that almost four times that number of Maori were drawing supplies from the township of Auckland.

Local merchants were under no illusion as to how great an asset they were. One newspaper called them "our very life blood, the vital fluid".

The Maori Foster Development: In Pioneer days they fed the settlement, selling cheaply the staple fare of pork and potatoes which they brought in by canoe and cutter.

They were builders of roomy houses of local materials; the passengers from the Jane Gifford and the Duchess of Argyle waded ashore to find 30 raupo houses erected by the Maori awaiting them.

Maori provided cheap labour to enable settlers to clear land and the Government to construct public works.

As gum-diggers, labourers on the Great Barrier Island copper mine, timber workers and flax gatherers, and as provisioners of food during the Australian gold rushes, they contributed much to the Auckland settlement's export earnings.

And the money they earned they spent freely on the goods of the town's traders, ¬things like blankets, clothing, and iron tools.

The mark-up for items sold to Maori seems to have been greater than for those sold to Europeans.

One merchant referred gratefully to "Our natives" as "a main source of the degree of prosperity which we enjoy".

Friendly Maori, moreover, threw a protective mantle over the town when it was small.

There is evidence that Heke was deterred from attacking the Waitemata area in 1845 by the knowledge that he would be resisted by Te Whero¬whero, chief of the Waikatos.

By forcing the submission of Heke in 1845, the new Governor, George Grey, removed the threat of invasion from Auckland. In the same year the depression broke.

Grey, never a victim of modesty, seemed to imagine that he had brought prosperity to the colony, as a kind of supercargo on the ship by which he came. In fact recovery had set in before his arrival.

But he made an important contribution to economic progress.

His firm dealings with the Maori built up settler confidence. And under Grey the financial position of the colony improved.

A more liberal financial provision by the British Government enabled him to redeem FitzRoy's debentures and to meet the expanded needs of administration.

Heavy expenditure on army supplies helped to enrich Auckland. By 1851 the Regular Army and the Fencible communities constituted almost 30 per cent of the population, giving Auckland much of the appearance of a garrison town.

Exports increased over the same period.

This was most markedly the case between 1850 and 1854 because gold strikes, first in California and then in Australia opened up profitable markets for Auckland merchants and producers, mainly for food-mostly vegetables and grains-and building materials.

Between 1851 and 1853 there was a doubling of the area under cultivation within 14 miles of Auckland.

By 1851 Auckland was emerging from its pioneer phase. Paintings of the settlement by P. J. Hogan about this time indicate substantial buildings in a setting of general prosperity.

The Auckland area had 33 per cent of the colony's population and provided 43 per cent of her public revenue.

Some of the first settlers had become wealthy men.

And yet, unsuspecting Aucklanders were to enter on an era of difficulty.

There was still no staple money ¬ earning export. By 1856 the Australian market had collapsed.

A crop of business failures in the mid-1850s helped to win for Auckland its 19th century notoriety as "The Grave of Enterprise".

Between 1856 and 1861 the Auckland province fell from its dominant place in the colonial economy when "the development of sheep farming gave South Island settlements an advantage which the discovery of gold in Otago in 1861 dramatically reinforced.

More subtly and seriously was Auckland's dominance eroded by growing racial tension.

In the later 1850s the partnership of Maori and settler was broken.

The next decade ushered in a period of racial conflict that was to change the whole course of development in Auckland in the later part of the 19th century.

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