Māori occupation in the Auckland area dates back around 800 years. Initial settlements were concentrated on 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 pā (fortified villages) on the numerous volcanic cones. The Ngāti Whatua iwi (tribe) from the Kaipara Harbour took the upper hand in 1741, occupying the major pā sites. During the Musket Wars of the 1820s they were decimated by the northern tribe Ngāpuhi, leaving the land all but abandoned.
At the time the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, Governor Hobson had his base in the Bay of Islands. When Ngāti 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 grew quickly, and soon the port was busy exporting the region’s produce, including kauri timber. However, it lost its capital status to centrally located Wellington after just 25 years.
Since the beginning of the 20th century Auckland has been New Zealand’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.
In 2010 the municipalities and urban districts that made up the Auckland Region were merged into one 'super-city', and in 2011 the newly minted metropolis was given a buff and shine to prepare it for hosting the Rugby World Cup. The waterfront was redeveloped, the art gallery and zoo were given a makeover, and a swag of new restaurants and bars popped up – leaving a more vibrant city in the Cup's wake.
The years since then have seen Auckland maintain its impetuous growth and increasingly multicultural make-up – it is the preferred destination for new immigrants to NZ – and while housing prices and traffic snarls continue to frustrate residents, it's still thrillingly and energetically the only true international city in the country.