Development of Auckland Port

The development of port infrastructure on Auckland’s waterfront has been underway since 1851. The shores in front of the CBD were initially very tidal and this made loading and unloading cargo difficult.

Container ship unloading at the Auckland port
The Auckland port is located on reclamations extending out into the Waitemata harbour. Shown here is a ship unloading at the container terminal.

By 1859 work had start reclaiming Commercial Bay in an ongoing process of reclamation which is still going today. A list of the reclamations, their dates of construction and sizes is shown below.

Flotilla of boats protesting aginst port expansion
A flotilla of boats took to the water to protest against continued port expansion into the Waitemata Harbour in March 2015.

More recently proposals for ongoing port development into the Waitemata Harbour by Ports of Auckland have prompted protests and an investigation into other options by the Port Future Study. Options canvassed include constraining the port to its current footprint, allowing further growth or potentially moving the port to the Manuaku harbour, Firth of Thames or Muriwai.

Steinlager 2 in Port Protest
‘Steinlager 2’ joined the protest against further expansion of the Auckland port into the harbour.


Reclamations in Downtown Auckland

Date Place Size (hectares)
1859 Commercial Bay between Fort St and Customs St 3.6
1872-79 Official Bay 7.5
1973-74 Hardinge St to Patterson St 1.5
1975-77 Queen St to Albert St 3.2
1875-77 Nelson St to Hardinge St 2.2
1876-77 Albert St to Nelson St 4.7
1878-79 Graving dock site at bottom of Hobson St 0.4
1879 – 86 Queen St to Britomart Pt (railway station) 7.6
1884-86 Cool store and power station site 2.7
1885-86 Freemans Bay 1.2
1886 Freemans Bay 2.5
1886-1901 Freemans Bay Victoria Park 9.5
1901-10 Mechanics Bay 6.8
1902-08 Hobson St 1.5
1904 St Georges Bay 0.9
1905-07 Freeman’s Bay 28.0
190910 Northern wharf and approaches 1.4
1911-12 St Georges Bay 0.8
1912-15 Mechanics Bay 13.1
1913-14 Fanshawe St 0.4
1913-14 Hobson St city Markets 1.7
1915 Graving dock site 0.4
1915-16 St Georges Bay 9.7
1916-19 East of power station 2.9
1919-23 Eastern reclamation No 1 7.0
1924 Princes wharf approaches 1.0
1924-26 Eastern reclamation No 2 5.9
1926-28 Western reclamation 9.5
1928 Eastern vehicular landing 0.2
1929-31 Eastern viaduct 0.6
1937-38 Westhaven 4.0
1938 Viaduct basin Nelson St 0.5
1937-45 Bledisloe wharf approach 1.4
1937-46 East of Kings wharf 1.4
1940-46 Western viaduct basin, Pakenham St 2.0
1951-54 Jellicoe wharf approach 1.0
1952-55 Eastern reclamation 4.6
1952-57 Harbour bridge reclamation 7.1
1958-60 Base of Freyberg wharf 2.4
1963-65 Viaduct basin 1.4
1967-70 Fergusson wharf 7.7
1969 – 73 Solent St 4.0
1970 – 75 Kings Bledisloe 8.5
1980 – 83 Bledisloe Stage 2 8.5
1989 – 90 Fishermans Wharf (Viaduct Basin) 0.2
2000 – 05 Fergusson Extension Stage 1 6.6
2005 – Fergusson Extension Stage 2 (ongoing) 3.3


Hauraki Gulf Dolphins

There are two species of dolphin resident in the Hauraki Gulf, the larger bottlenose dolphin and the smaller common dolphin. Bottlenose dolphins live up to around 50 years of age and they grow between 2 and 4 metres long. We still know very little about them but they appear to be using the Hauraki Gulf as a nursery area to bring up their young. The population is considered to be endangered so it is important that we look after these highly intelligent, fascinating animals.

If you want to learn more about dolphins in New Zealand and our interactions with them “Dolphins of Aotearoa makes a fascinating read.

Bottlenose dolphins
Bottlenose dolphins use the Hauraki Gulf all year round and most pods include calves or juvenile dolphins.

Common dolphins are not considered to be endangered but anecdotally there are far fewer in the Hauraki Gulf than in the past. They are commonly sighted in large pods around ‘boil ups’ of fish and will play in the bow waves of boats travelling past.

The Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari take people out to see dolphins,  whales and seabirds most days. They have kindly made available some stunning images of Humpback and Bryde’s Whales, Orca and Common and Bottlenose Dolphins for reproduction in The Story of the Hauraki Gulf.

Watching these extraordinary animals in their natural environment, on the very door step of Auckland, is a very thrilling experience.

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari Hauraki Gulf
A trip out on the Hauraki Gulf to see the whales, dolphins and seabirds can be an exhilarating experience close to Auckland.











The Last Scow

Scow Jane Gifford
Scow ‘Jane Gifford’ taking out a party of school children on the Waitemata Harbour.

The first New Zealand scow was built in 1873 by the Mieklejohn family at Omaha, inspired by the timber scows which operated on the Great Lakes in North America. They were ugly, clumsy square boats with flat bottoms designed to draw little water and to beach squarely on the beach. They also carried all their cargo on deck making loading and unloading easier.

Over 130 scows were built in New Zealand over a period of 50 years. They were a common sight around all the beaches and bays of the Hauraki Gulf. They were used to transport timber, sand and all manner of goods.

The remains of the last scow trading on the Hauraki Gulf under sail, Rahiri (formerly called Daphne) can still be seen on Blackpool Beach, Waiheke Island as shown in the feature image.

Scows Jane Gifford and Ted Ashby
Two restored scows still sail the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, the ‘Ted Ashby’ shown on the left which is based at the New Zealand Maritime Museum and the ‘Jane Gifford’ which is based at Warkworth.

The scow Jane Gifford can still be seen sailing on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. She was built in 1908 by Davey Darroch at his Ōmaha boatyard and named after the Scottish immigrant ship which had brought Darroch and his family to Auckland in 1842. She had a busy and varied life carting granite, shell, road metal and general cargo.

By the 1950s the Jane Gifford had reached the end of her working life. In 2005 Peter Thompson and Hugh Gladwell set up the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust and purchased the old hulk for $10. Through fundraising and volunteer labour they restored her to her former glory.  The Jane Gifford can now be seen tied up to the wharf at Warkworth. She operates a full schedule of sailings for schools and members of the public.


P Class yachts produce world class sailors

The P Class yacht was designed in 1920 by Harry Highet as a training boat for children. Although it was first sailed in Tauranga, it was not until the Ponsonby Cruising Club adopted the small craft in 1941 that it really took off.

Young girl sailing a P Class yacht
P Class yachts are hard to keep upright and their use as training boats for children may be one reason why New Zealand sailers are world-class.

Many notable sailors trained in the tiny boats in the Hauraki Gulf including Sir Peter Blake, Dean Barker, Sir Russell Coutts, Chris Dickson and Leslie Egnot. They were difficult boats to sail, particularly in heavy winds, as they have a tendency to nose-dive going downwind. This honed the balancing skills of the young sailors.

P Class yachts are still sailed today from clubs such as the Kohimaramara Yacht Club and Murrays Bay Sailing Club. They may be one reason why New Zealand produces world class sailors.

Two P Class yachts racing towards Murrays Bay
P Class yachts are thrilling to sail. Shown here are two yachts racing towards the shore at Murrays bay, North Shore.



Moturekareka Island Wreck

The rich maritime history of the Hauraki Gulf can be seen in the numerous wrecks still littered around its shores. Perhaps the most famous wreck lies off Moturekareka Island (close to Kawau Island). Here the ribs of the ‘Rewa’ a 3000 tonne, four-masted barque can be seen sheltering the bay. The wreck was bought by Charlie Hansen in 1930 and he had it towed to Moturekareka by an Auckland Harbour Board tug. Reports indicate that the prime purpose Hansen had in mind was to provide a breakwater for his beach but he may also have intended to use the vessel for accommodation and for a cabaret.

Yacht moored next to Rewa wreck Moturekareka Island
Yacht moored next to the Rewa wreck at Moturekareka Island, near Kawau Island.

According to a 1930 report in the Evening Post, a Mr G Bennett was installed as caretaker of the vessel and he slept onboard. On 2 July at:

about 2 o’clock in the morning, the barque started to list slightly and there were mysterious rumblings and the sound of falling materials almost continually throughout the night. At about 5 o’clock there was a crash. The bow-line parted with a loud report, and the barque heeled over to her port.”

Bennett scrambled ashore under torchlight and the stranded vessel was left with a 45 degree list.

Ribs of Rewa wreck Mouterekareka
The ribs of the wreck provided new habitat for kelp and other marine species, which in turn attract fish life.

Charlie Hansen used material from the ship’s superstructure to build a shack on the top of the hill on Moturekareka. He also let visiting yachties, such as Johnny Wray, take pieces. Wray describes his visit to Moturekareka in his book South Sea Vagabonds:

‘To anyone nautically minded his house was a perfect delight. It was built largely from gear salvaged from the ship ‘in his front garden’, as he called it. Lifebelts, binnacles, wheels, flags, shrouds, ropes, rails; in fact everything dear to the heart of a sailor was built into that little home. There was a library there that must have contained every nautical book ever published, a library that would be the heart’s desire of any true sea-lover. A perfect home for an old sailor.’

Tiritiri Matangi a Restoration Success Story

Tiritiri Matangi Island lighthouse
The Tiritiri Matangi lighthouse was the first to operate in the Hauraki Gulf and was lit on 1 January 1865. The lighthouse was designed to provide assistance to vessels arriving into Auckland at night.

The restoration of Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wonderful success. The restoration project was initiated by the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park Board. It was the first time that public volunteers were used for island conservation in New Zealand and many thought that the approach would not work, that you could only have a successful nature reserve if the public was not allowed to go there.

The planting programme started in 1984. Members of the public were invited to come and help. Over  a decade later over 250,000 native trees had been planted. Eleven bird species how now been translocated back to the island.

Tiritiri Matangi is ecologically important, not only as a site where wildlife can thrive, but as a breeding ground for rare species that can be transferred to other islands. It has also become a very popular place for visitors. But perhaps even more importantly, the project provided inspiration for other island restoration projects, in the Hauraki Gulf and elsewhere.

Tiritiri Matangi tourists arriving on Fullers ferry
Over 33,000 people visit Tiritiri Matangi Island each year. Shown here are a group of tourists who have just been dropped off by the Fullers ferry for the day.


Recreational Fishing in the Gulf

Heading out from Coromandel
Heading out of Coromandel Harbour on a mussel barge charter fishing trip.

Thousands of Aucklanders, and people living in other coastal settlements around the Hauraki Gulf go fishing each year. Many people enjoy catching fish from mussel farms located around the Gulf. The farms attract snapper which feed on the growing mussels. The large Wilsons Bay mussel farms in the Firth of Thames now support a growing charter boat industry.

Mussel Barge Snapper Safaris is a small family owned business which operates fishing charters out of Coromandel. The images on this page were taken on one of their excellent trips.

Mussel barge charter Wilsons Bay B
Mussels farms are a very popular place to fish as the mussels act as fish aggregation devices and attract lots of snapper.
Fishermen off Wilsons Bay B mussel farm
Many small boats head out to the mussel farms from places such as Coromandel, Thames and Kaiaua to fish for snapper.

Hauraki Gulf book in Best Books of 2016

The Story of the Hauraki Gulf features in the Listener’s Best 100 Books of 2016 and in the New Zealand Herald’s Best Books of 2016.

“It’s big, beautifully illustrated, packed with information about pretty much every aspect of the gulf, from the early Polynesian navigators who first found it to the environmental activists involved in repairing the damage done by centuries of settlement, and perhaps best of all it is full of personal stories about the individuals involved in its multi-faceted history. This is a book that, like the gulf itself, is surely destined to endure.” Jim Eagles, NZ Herald. Read full review.

“With its lovely maps and photos and prose as clear as glass, the book just kept opening up. This is a wonderful book.”  Geoff Chapple, NZ Listener. Read full review.

“This is a beautiful tribute to a stunning part of New Zealand, and one that we should all have on our shelves.” Boat Books

Story of the Hauraki Gulf 2016 cover
Cover of forthcoming book ‘The Story of the Hauraki Gulf’ showing (top) Tiritiri Matangi wharf, (left) Bean Rock Lighthouse and (right) Classic yachts Ngatira (B2) and Waitangi (A6) racing in the Waitemata Harbour.

The Story of the Hauraki Gulf is a social, cultural and environmental celebration of an extraordinary place. It brings together the many fascinating strands of history to provide a rich insight into the Gulf today and its possible future.

“I hope that the stories in this book will prompt readers to recall their own species stories of the Hauraki Gulf, and of other treasured locations. Because it is only if we remember our stories, if we tell our stories and if we act on them that we can ensure that out special places will endure.”


The book, authored by Raewyn Peart from the Environmental Defence Society and published by David Bateman Ltd, is printed in high quality coffee table format with over 300 historic and contemporary images. The wonderful photos of the Hauraki Gulf highlight what an extraordinary place it is.

Classic Yacht Thelma in 2013 Auckland anniversary regatta
Classic yacht Thelma competing in the 2013 Auckland Anniversary Regatta.












Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park map
Although many people think that the Hauraki Gulf only includes the area between Bream Head and Cape Colville, it is much bigger than this.

The Story of the Hauraki Gulf takes in the entire Hauraki Gulf Marine Park which covers around 1.4 million hectares of marine space and over fifty islands. Some of the larger islands include Great Barrier Island, Great Mercury Island, Little Barrier Island and Waiheke Island.

Great Mercury Island
Great Mercury Island is part of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

Hauraki Gulf Book off to the Printers

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.49.53 pm
Title page of ‘The Story of the Hauraki Gulf’. The image shows two children swimming off Hobbs Beach, Tiritiri Matangi Island.

The Story of the Hauraki Gulf is almost ready to go off to the printers. The designer Nick Turzynski has done a fantastic job of bringing all the images, the text, and the personalised stories together into a great looking format. I can’t wait to see it all the material professionally printed and bound.

A Celebration of Our Association with this Remarkable Place