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Discover the historical past of Auckland, New Zealand.
Long long ago, Maui, a mischievous demigod, went fishing one day with his brothers, deep in the southern ocean. Using his grandmother's jawbone for a hook, he caught a huge fish and hauled it out of the sea. His brothers were jealous and fought over the fish. The fish became the North Island of New Zealand, and the landforms were created by their actions, the sea flowing into the gaps left by the hungry brothers. The resulting narrow Auckland isthmus was surrounded by water, between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.
The iwi, or tribes, of the Auckland area descend from those who arrived in the original waka (canoes) from Hawaii about 800 years ago. They brought with them the dog and native rat as well as food plants such as taro, gourd, yam and kumara. Their descendants include Tainui, Hauraki and Kawerau iwi, and Ngati Whatua from the north, considered to be the official tangata whenua, (people of the land), of Auckland today.
Auckland is built on an active field of 48 volcanoes, dating back 150,000 years. The youngest, Rangitoto Island, blew up just 600 years ago, and stands like a guardian over the city. The isthmus, Tamaki Makaurau, was fertile with plants, trees, fish and bird life and blessed with a mild climate. Early coastal settlements show evidence of fishing and seasonal food gathering. Later, large-scale agriculture was practiced and archaeological sites frequently show seashell middens and terraces used for housing and gardens.
There are still many tapu (sacred) places, associated with important events, ancestors and graves of these early inhabitants. The volcanic cones offer the greatest evidence of old Maori settlements and were probably developed as fortified pa during the 17th century, when inter-tribal conflict escalated. The volcanoes remain the most distinctive feature of Auckland's landscape and, like most landforms, had great symbolic and spiritual importance to the Maori.
Early European visitors included Captain Cook, missionary Samuel Marsden, British naval boats seeking timber for masts and spars, and whalers and sealers provisioning their ships. They brought iron tools, alcohol and tobacco, serious diseases and, most significantly, muskets! As well as Christianity, the missionaries introduced farm animals, the plow, fruit trees, cereal and vegetable crops. Traditional Maori ways of life were changed forever.
In 1840 many local chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Britain. There have been problems in defining its true meaning ever since, resulting in frequent land disputes. However, it is an important document, embodying the ideal "We are One People".
Auckland became the capital of the new colony in 1840 on land purchased from Ngati Whatua. Farming developed along with copper mining and timber, and Maori communities participated widely in agriculture and trade. Relations with European settlers were friendly during the 1840s-50s, despite the military settlements at Onehunga, Otahuhu, Panmure, Howick and Albert barracks. The Land Wars of the 1860s decimated the South Auckland tribes, and much of their land and that of Tainui was confiscated.
In 1865 the country's capital was transferred to Wellington. Auckland grew to become New Zealand's main industrial center and port over the next 30 years. From 1870 immigration from Britain increased, and gum digging, brick making, flour milling, brewing and boat building were added to the local trades. The introduction of refrigeration in the late 1880s had a major impact on the entire country. Now it was possible to transport fresh food to Britain and produce soon passed through the port of Auckland.
Through the 1880s Auckland had 8,000 inhabitants with 20,000 people living on the isthmus. Many large buildings were built, such as the City Library and Art Gallery. Fortifications at Takapuna, Bastion Point, North Head and Mt Victoria were built to defend the city in case of attack.
By the 1890s Auckland was described as a "sophisticated cosmopolitan center." Venues such as the Domain were developed for sport, and new leisure activities included steamer excursions to beaches like Devonport and the Gulf Islands, horse racing, walking, cycling and brass band concerts. After the hard early pioneering days, people could now discover and enjoy the attractions of the Auckland region.
During the early 1900s, the Ferry Building, the De Post, the Town Hall and the Parnell Baths were all examples of new building thought suitable for a sophisticated and civilized city. Grafton Bridge was built and internationally acclaimed as the first reinforced concrete arch in the Southern Hemisphere. The Maori population, however, was decreasing.
The War Memorial Museum honors the thousands of young New Zealanders killed and wounded in the First World War and others. During the Second World War, large coastal gun batteries, such as those along Tamaki Drive, were installed around the city.
Auckland's population reached 630,000 by 1970, due to both urban migration and immigration—mostly from Britain and Holland in the 1950s and the Pacific Islands in the 1960s. Motorways were built in the 50s and the Harbour Bridge opened in 1959, drawing the North Shore into the growing metropolis.
Auckland has seen its share of debate and political action, from Flower Power and anti-Vietnam War rallies to Peace Squadron anti-nuclear flotillas on the Waitemata Harbour and enormous protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour. Bastion Point was the focus of a long Ngati Whatua occupation in the 1980s and national attempts to resolve Maori land issues continue today. In 1985 French secret agents sank the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior in the harbor.
Auckland's population reached one million in 1996. Waves of new immigrants have recently made Auckland their home and more and more people try to cram onto the narrow isthmus each year. From the different languages spoken in the street, and the variety of ethnic food now available, you would never guess Auckland was a small place. Tourism is vital, and an exciting variety of activities and experiences await visitors to this vibrant, multi-cultural city.
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