To understand why Auckland is the way it is, we must look back at our past. Old documentaries about Auckland’s history are fairly rare and usually fascinating.

Here’s one from 1960 called “Expanding Auckland”. We’ve published this before but it’s worth watching again.


As always it’s usually the “throwaway lines” which are the most interesting. A few that caught my attention:

  • The removal of Auckland’s fantastic tram system was celebrated as it cleared the roads
  • Celebrating the “vigorous” parking building programme
  • The “tremendous viaduct” over Victoria Park is spoken of excitedly

It does seem like we have come quite a long way since.

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22 comments

  1. Interesting thanks. Love the music at the start, so typical of those documentaries. Seems that the expansion was a similar vibe to now but was a purely motorway & greenfield focus. Airport, sewage etc all getting amped up again. Another classic line (or pretty close) was “Cutting a curb in a paddock is almost a symbol of what is happening everywhere“.

  2. “To a city bursting at the seams, this motorway in the sky is like an open door!” (Shot of the 4-lane harbour bridge, with no footpaths or bike paths…)

  3. “…to a visitor, Auckland appears to be half rooftops and half trees”. I wonder how many have survived the previous Government’s determination to stamp out local tree protections?

    1. I’d say a number of them went in the months leading up to the introduction of the protection regulations as people cleared out their big trees lest they get stuck with them in the future.

      1. People love trees. They get cut down when zoning allows intensification. No point worrying about that, you can either have large sites with lots of trees or small sites with few trees. Take your pick.

        1. Really? Yet the city with the most tree cover in the world is not one with hectares of detached houses but where most people live in apartments… and the trees are publicly provided and maintained… turns out you can actually enjoy a tree you don’t own, and then individuals don’t get to cut them down either:

          http://uk.businessinsider.com/cities-with-most-trees-2017-7?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=webfeeds&r=US&IR=T/#heres-what-singapores-treepedia-map-looks-like-16

          1. In this country people like to enjoy trees that someone else owns. Tree rules were brought in here to stop people cutting down privately owned trees not publicly owned trees. The rules were really an attempt to stop intensification. A few tree council nutters managed to get sufficient mainstream support from people who didn’t want their neighbour to develop. We are better off without those rules.

  4. “beyond the Tamaki there will soon be another 4600 house units … 12 schools… another 20,000 Aucklanders”

    cf with http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/10/auckland-leads-significant-new-zealand-population-growth.html “Again, Auckland has the most rapid growth, with 28,900 more people arriving in the region than leaving to take the population to 1.66 million – an overall rise of 2.6 percent.”

    I guess we needed another 17 schools last year.

    1. Yeah, Nah.

      Ministry of Education official roll projections said we needed at most 17 modern learning environments, that were able to be tacked on to the playing fields of the existing schools to cater for all the projected growth…

  5. How did they build so much inforstructure back then?
    When Auckland’s population back then was little more then 400 000.
    Now almost 1.4 million, I would expect 3 to 4 times more construction in Auckland.

    1. Basically they built so much by sacking the environment and society that existed at the time.

      Cheaply acquired land, no regard for existing land uses, low design standards, zero environmental consideration, poor labour practices and poor health and safety.

      Spaghetti junction was built by bulldozing thousands of poor peoples homes, cutting a huge trench through a shopping street, digging up a cemetery, demolishing a cricket ground, and paving over native bush in the gully.

      Another example, three workers fell to their death building the harbour bridge, could you imagine three men being crushed to death building the Waterview tunnel being acceptable? And likewise the motorway the connected to it was built by filling in St Marys Bay. Could you imagine us filling in Takapuna Beach or St Heliers Bay for a motorway today?

        1. Well fingers crossed it’s not, certainly there was enough resistance to the idea for it to become a campaign platform at the election.

        1. I suspect Nick means the western end of Victoria Park – greatly used for cricket before the elevated motorway ruined it.

        2. I am referring to Blanford Park, which was the home of the Grafton Cricket Club. But looking into it you are right, it was mostly used for soccer.

          But of course part of Victoria Park too.

  6. This documentary provides quite an interesting insight into New Zealand’s history and thinking at the time.

    Not everything featured in it is necessarily wrong and actually gave quite a feeling of a city and a country that was progressing (with the knowledge and thinking of the time).

    A lot of Auckland’s problems today have developed significantly since the Rogernomics reforms of the 1980s where nationwide downsizing and relocation of business and industry primarily to Auckland has caused a massive influx of people moving into Auckland to follow the jobs, together with record levels of immigration since immigration laws and criteria were changed in the 1980s and 1990s, and masses of cheap imported cars from this time onwards, combined resulting in a housing shortage with poor quality infill housing and low quality new housing being built. This, combined with the lack of investment and improvement and expansion of the (passenger) rail network with concentrating only on building motorways and roading improvements in Auckland since the 1950s through to the early 2000s is also a significant cause behind Auckland’s chronic traffic congestion.

    It is interesting to note the scale of development occurring at that time with the population only a fraction of what it is now. If only rail expansion such as the Rapid Rail plans of the early 70s had been implemented together with the motorway plans.

    Auckland to this day still does not get planning right with allowing large scale new housing developments to be built (often low quality, mass packed in housing on tiny narrow streets) with no future provision for rapid public transport corridors such as light rail and heavy rail, let alone proper grade separated motorways. Instead we are getting houses with no land around them with no room for parking on the properties or on the narrow streets which barely have room for vehicles to pass let alone park on the street – God help anyone who’s house catches fire in one of these new subdivisions where the closely packed neighbouring houses could easily catch fire and the fire engine may struggle to get through the narrow streets if cars are parked on them.

    The practice of building houses under power pylons still continues to this day despite concerns about the health effects of living under high voltage power lines. Smarter planning would be to create transport corridors under these power pylon routes across Auckland, for either light rail or cycleways through a greenway created beneath them, even it means buying up existing properties underneath pylons – most property owners beneath pylons would probably welcome the offer to sell.

    East Auckland desperately needs a decent high capacity, fast public transport corridor and Te Irirangi Drive should be rebuilt between Manukau and Botany as a proper grade separated motorway with light rail running along the middle of it, removing all the delay and congestion causing traffic lights. The light rail line should then be extended from Botany to Pakuranga and Panmure along the wide Ti Rakau Drive and Pakuranga Road with a branch line from Pakuranga to Howick, to which light rail tracks could easily be implemented. Light rail would be much more appealing to use than a busway, and would be more complementary to the urban environment with being quiet and electric powered, carrying far more people than the traffic lane it would take.

  7. What I found interesting was the average age of the cars on the streets, very few over 10 years old – including my favourite, the Mk7 Jaguar. Compare that with today where a Japanese import car is at least six years old before it lands here, and probably 10 to 15 years old while running on the streets – however, the build quality is now such that a car can now reliably run for at least 20 years before it needs any work – mine is 25 years old and my wife’s is 21 years old, and we can see no need to replace them, although my air cond needs some work. The documentary shows graphically why we are having deal with the problems of today, because that was the age when our main arterials were built and what was considered to be the greatest thing since sliced bread was soon found to be totally inadequate.

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