Maori occupation in the Auckland area dates back around 800 years. Initial settlements were concentrated on the coastal regions of the Hauraki Gulf islands, but gradually the fertile isthmus beckoned and land was cleared for growing food.
Over hundreds of years Tamaki’s many different tribes wrestled for control of the area, building pa (fortified villages) on the numerous volcanic cones. The Ngati Whatua iwi (tribe) from the Kaipara Harbour took the upper hand in 1741, occupying the major pa sites. During the Musket Wars of the 1820s they were decimated by the northern tribe Ngapuhi, leaving the land all but abandoned.
At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Governor Hobson had his base at Okiato, near Russell in the Bay of Islands. When Ngati Whatua chief Te Kawau offered 3000 acres of land for sale on the northern edge of the Waitemata Harbour, Hobson decided to create a new capital, naming it after one of his patrons, George Eden (Earl of Auckland).
Beginning with just a few tents on a beach, the settlement quickly grew, and soon the port was kept busy exporting the region’s produce, including kauri timber. However, it lost its capital status to Wellington after just 25 years.
Since the beginning of the 20th century Auckland has been NZ’s fastest-growing city and its main industrial centre. Political deals may be done in Wellington, but Auckland is the big smoke in the land of the long white cloud.