18: A Great South Road?


What if Great South Road truly was great?

The creation of Great South Road was one of the great formational moves in the early expansion of Auckland. Starting in 1861, some 12,000 soldiers built the highway over 2 years to provide a direct route south out of Auckland to the Waikato hinterland during the New Zealand Wars. It quickly became the primary commercial and community link between areas to the south of the isthmus, providing opportunity for the garrison communities like Otahuhu that had sprung up along its route to become important centres in their own right.

That role has long been surpassed by the Southern Motorway, but the legacy of Great South Road remains. It is a highly important route connecting communities and large employment areas in the south. As a route however, the legibility of where it goes and what it connects to is perhaps not very widely known or understood for Aucklanders who live and work further afield, who will be much more familiar with the motorway.

Much of Great South Road already is great. Places like Otahuhu are vibrant and diverse with a bright future. Otahuhu has significant development potential underpinned by a fantastic legacy of a historic fine grain pattern of streets and subdivision on flat land. It can readily adapt to support further growth that will benefit both the town centre and forthcoming rail-bus interchange.

By contrast, other sections of the route aren’t so great, still feeling like the road is still the main highway out of town.

Wouldn’t it be great if Great South Road – in stark contrast to the southern motorway – could become a celebrated route through the south that relates to the urban fabric and communities of Auckland? A strengthening of the corridor and centres through greater mixed use development,  improvements for walking and cycling and a legible and frequent bus route with rail connections at Manurewa, Manukau, Otahuhu, Penrose, Ellerslie, Greenlane and Remuera starts to add up to what sounds like a great urban corridor for this part of Auckland.

Great South Road, and other similar urban corridors, should have stronger alignment of land use and transport planning in the future to work steadily towards becoming positive forces in the city that can help shape and guide how Auckland grows and develops into the future.

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  1. What if Great South Road was renamed into something less nonsensical? giving a direction as the name for a road is pretty odd, as it’s bidirectional by nature. There’s quite a few other streets with similarly confusing and boring names (great south rd, new north rd…). What about renaming them into something more evocative, more poetic, and more attractive? Nothing like a good name change to change people’s perception of an area. cf Te Atatu North -> Te Atatu Peninsula.

  2. I like the Great South Rd name and the others because of the links to Auckland of old. I also like the way that they’re entertainingly weird – using Great North Road to get to what is now emphatically West Auckland, for example.

    Great South Rd through Papakura has potential to be much more than it is at present. Good post.

  3. Manurewa where I grew up was a great little garden community town with a very enlightened borough council under mayor Harry Beamont.
    Under Harrys leader ship the borough purchased many parks and encouraged ground breaking garden subdivisions working with the natural landscape and discouraging fencing between properties and encouraging planting instead. Most of the titles had caveats preventing fencing. Manurewa at one time had probably the most parks per head of population anywhere. Sadly manurewa was annexed by manukau city and its corrupt and one eyed planners who created the nightmare that Manukau is today plus completely ruined Manurewa and then Papatoetoe It would be great to reestablish the identify of the old towns while creating new centres for the poor areas tacked onto the original towns.
    The sea of housing filling the spaces between the old towns deserve their own centres that give some focus and identity to that neighbourhood. There are already some existing secondary corridors that would work well and all that is required is some vision from our so called leaders at Council and our highly paid planners to do their job for urban revival to happen for these areas. It is an exciting prospect.
    Thankyou Patrick for focussing our attention on the forgotten parts of Auckland.

  4. Totally agreed RE Otahuhu. Has great old bones and a huge amount of potential – give it ten years and people will be tripping over themselves to live there.

    There is something very endearing and sentimental about the string of old South Auckland towns: Otahuhu -> Papatortoe -> Manurewa -> Papakua. Can’t wait to see that part of the city blossom.

  5. Agree. Great north rd and new north rd should be the same. All these roads should be as iconic as queen, ponsonby, dominion. A lot of history along these roads. Could be a greater focus for Ateed and creating urban journeys for locals and tourists. The 6 great streets of Auckland.

    Some of these town centres along these roads could do with reviving, mt Albert, Avondale. Have great potential as most sit on the rail lines. Should be the future of Auckland, thriving town centres along rail lines.

  6. I have always been confused by the street numbering on Great South Road, which seems to restart at odd points for no discernable reason. For example, there’s 100 Great South Road in Epsom, 100 Great South Road in Otahuhu and 100 Great South Road in Manurewa.

    Can anyone explain why? I’m not aware of any other main roads (like Great North Road) that have this feature.

    This seems like something that should be addressed if Great South Road is to become a more cohesive and iconic route.

    1. > Can anyone explain why? I’m not aware of any other main roads (like Great North Road) that have this feature.

      The places along Great South Road used to genuinely be separate towns, separated by rural areas, with separate local governments. The numbers didn’t restart at any point, it was just treated as a different street in each town, and the bits between towns weren’t numbered at all.

      The thing that’s unusual isn’t restarting the numbers, but the fact that the road has the same name the whole way along. Most intercity main roads didn’t (and often still don’t) have proper names, and if the main road was also the main street of some town, it’d be given a specific name (like Queen Street) for the part within the town, but roads between towns would often just be described by their destination, rather than be named.

  7. Happened to drive along a bit of The Great South Rd yesterday. There’s an appalling stretch just north of Drury where the berms are lined with bedraggled 2-metre high paling fences, behind which squat the low tiled roofs of recent suburban developments. Then suddenly, on the southern approach to Papakura, it becomes Great – overhung by magnificent big trees (And not just those of Kirk’s Bush). What if we kicked off Stuart’s idea by cruising down the full length with a big 2-metre drill bit and dropping a new street tree into every bit of kerbside asphalt that isn’t necessary for normally dimensioned carpark spaces or moving carriageway ?

  8. Great South Rd was built by 12,000 of Grey’s, soldiers in 1861? It was built towards the boundary river called the Mangatawhire river, crossing it one was in the Waikato lands owned by our Maori King. Yes Cameron crossed the river on the 12th of July in 1863 , this was all in Grey,s strategies to took land that wasn’t his. I think why he built Great South Rd is because in 1860 a Maori Chief Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake from Taranaki refused to sell land to the Government, Grey began the New Zealand wars at Taranaki and it spread. The word got into the press that Waikato was going to attack Auckland. This was done once the so called Great South Rd was Built and the invasion began by crossing the river into the Heartland of Waikato. Grey needed more land for the growing population, and confiscated Land enabling him to pay the crown back, from the policing he put in place in NZ. Grey’s Great South Rd was his pathway to take land from Waikato and to pay for the Crown Loan back! One has to remember, Maori welcomed the settlers and were their friends, helped the new settlers by giving them food in 1840’s and even traded with the settlers. Maori and settlers learnt from each other and lived beside each other. By abt 1845 Maori had windmills to produce flour, excellent farmers and had plenty of land to do this. Built churches, schools and believed in peace, law and faith. The introduction of earl religion; slowly began to wipe out cannibalization and revenge. Being Maori, Scottish and English and I am proud to have those bloodlines ran thought me for I have researched my Whakapapa Acknowledgement, Understanding, and Wisdom. Acknowledge what one doesn’t know, together an understanding of it, too have wisdom of it!!!

    1. Correction near the ending, I wrote I am researching my Whakapapa Acknowledgement, Understanding, and Wisdom. Acknowledge what one doesn’t know, togather an understanding of it, too have wisdom of it!!!” This is what I wanted to so but wouldn’t fit. Being Maori, Scottish and English and I am proud to have those bloodlines ran thought me for I am researching my Whakapapa ( Genealogy ) lines and still learning, for it never stops. My 3rd Great Grandfather was a Royal Engineer from Windsor, England and he was Scottish who arrived in 1840, so can one imagine how to blend and balance one self. I try too do this by the power of three words, Acknowledgement, Understanding, and Wisdom. Acknowledge what one doesn’t know, togather an understanding of it, too have wisdom of it!!! My Grandfather shared that with me and many other’s of all race’s he’s passed over and I love him so much!! Thankyou Uncle Matua Te Hira Moana-Wharenui, for supporting us when big pop passed. And I acknowledge your teachings and what you had shared with pop!
      A Graham “Never forget”s and that is my Graham’s Scottish saying the bible say’s forgive and forget, yet how can one forget the past when it produced one’s present? One can forgive yet one needs to remember the past to remember and move forward in life, for it makes us who we are, and where we have come from!
      Peace and goodwill be with us all

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