Each January on the Monday closest to the 29th, Auckland’s anniversary is celebrated.
On the 30th of January, in the year 1840, British sovereignty was proclaimed in New Zealand. Our first governor, William Hobson, proudly flew the flag of the empire above the Bay of Islands, and even though settlers had already arrived in Wellington, it was here that the British government stepped in. This country’s fate wouldn’t be left up to the Wakefield’s company.
The foundation of Auckland itself was a wee while away, and proper settlement wouldn’t start in the modern city until the next year, but there were already a few hardy colonists in the far north, at Kororareka/Russell and in the numerous Christian missions, living among the Maori in the native pahs and villages, and in some small trading or whaling stations along the coast.
It was during that year that the site of the new settlement was chosen, and the land purchased from the local Maori. Governor Hobson, who was a Captain in the Royal Navy, named the place Auckland, after the then First Lord of the Admiralty, George Eden, the 1st Earl of Auckland, after who the suburbs of Mount Eden and Glen Eden are also named.
Auckland in 1840 was a far cry from the supercity that it is today. Most of the country’s white population was away to the south, in Port Nicholson and Britannia (Wellington and Petone), at Port Underwood (in Marlborough), at Port Louis-Philippe (Akaroa), and in a few other small early settlements. Only a handful lived in what is now Auckland.
None of those first pioneer Aucklanders could have known that some day a full third of the country’s total population would live in their city. In 1841, there were slightly less than sixteen million people in England and Wales, and to think that one day their new settlement would hold even a tenth of that number must have seemed absurd.
And yet it does. It is by far the largest city in New Zealand, and would actually be the second largest city in the United Kingdom if it were there and not here, in between London (8.6 million inhabitants) and Birmingham (1.2 million).
The seed planted by Hobson and his fellows has sprouted into a true global city, as much as we in the rest of the country all like to complain about the Jafas, we should be proud of their accomplishments and celebrate alongside them this 179th anniversary.