Over the break while googling for something else I stumbled across this fascinating publication, titled A brief history of Auckland’s urban form 2019 by Leon Hoffman in the Council’s Research and Evaluation team. It had only been published days earlier on 19 December and as the name suggests, looks at the history of Auckland’s urban form. It is an update to a publication that has been produced periodically since 1967, having been last done in 2010 prior to amalgamation. It is described as:
This publication outlines the development of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s urban form, from pre-colonial Māori settlement to the modern Auckland metropolis. It attempts to capture the context and main drivers behind the growth of the city, including infrastructure provision, housing development, and in later decades, town planning.
The analysis is chronological and discussion is divided into one or two decades at a time.
Each section (with the exception of the 1880-1899 and 1990-1999 periods) includes a map that shows growth over time in the built-up areas, as well as the development of the rail and motorway systems. These maps replicate, and continue, a series of maps first included in a 1967 article by G. T. Bloomfield titled The Growth of Auckland 1840-1966.
The maps presented in this publication were first prepared by the Social and Economic Research and Monitoring team at the Auckland Regional Council, using previous maps and aerial photos, and have been continued by the Land Use and Infrastructure team at Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU). All maps are drawn at a 1:380,000 scale and are oriented north.
Each section also includes a population figure and an estimated figure for the built-up area (in hectares), for a given year within that time period. The estimated built area land measurements were calculated by using the growth maps mentioned above.
Research for this publication has drawn upon many excellent local histories from numerous sources. A list of selected references and suggested reading is included at the end of this publication.
Those looking for further information about the Māori history of Tāmaki Makaurau are encouraged to seek out the many knowledges provided by the area’s local iwi.
There’s a lot of interesting history in the document but here are maps showing how Auckland has developed.
Prior to 1840
This version shows areas of known Māori activity
The settlement of Auckland was only small, having only been founded two years prior.
- Population: 2,895
- Area: 33.2 ha
- Density: 87 people per hectare
This is about the time that Auckland’s first railways are build and settlements popped up in Onehunga, Otahuhu and Panmure.
- Population: 12,423 (in 1864)
- Area: 565 ha
- Density 22 people per hectare
Auckland grew rapidly during this time, in part on the back of the building and expansion of first horse-drawn and then electric trams. New settlements started popping up, especially along the rail lines.
- Population: 133,712 (in 1916)
- Area: 5,039 ha
- Density: 27 people per hectare
The immediate post WW2 era was when our tram network was at its peak following expansions in the 1930’s which also resulted in significant urban growth.
- Population: 251,667
- Area: 13,642 ha
- Density: 18 people per hectare
The 1945 to 1964 period was one of the most pivotal times in Auckland’s history. It’s when we ripped out the tram system on the back of a decision that we’d build a city based around cars. That saw the completion of the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the first motorways – to the west and south.
- Population: 535,167 (in 1966)
- Area: 26,793 ha
- Density: 20 people per hectare
This period saw Auckland’s first urban boundaries be established and you can see the impact compared to previous maps with new development seeming to more ‘fill in the gaps’ as opposed to the large urban expansions of previous decades.
- Population: 707,607
- Area: 37,000 ha
- Density: 19 people per hectare
As intensification of the urban area became more of a focus you can clearly see the impact with much less outward growth compared to previous maps – although this is also impacted by lower population growth.
- Population: 754,845
- Area: 40,022 ha
- Density: 19 people per hectare
The report notes that between 1991 and 2001, “between 52 and 62 per cent of annual metropolitan residential growth took place in existing urbanised areas (middle/inner/CBD) as opposed to 38-48 per cent greenfields development in the outer zones“. Agan this is quite visible compared to earlier maps.
- Population: 997,940
- Area: 45,144 ha
- Density: 22 people per hectare
The same trend as mentioned before with the urban area nibbling at the edges but much of it happening within the existing urban area. This was also the time that Auckland started to revitalise our PT system with the opening of Britomart and the Northern Busway.
- Population: 1,160,100
- Area: 49,520 ha
- Density: 23 people per hectare
Auckland’s population has boomed over the last decade or so but the size of the urban area hasn’t to the same extent and that’s reflected in the average urban density figure shooting up from the 23 to 30.
- Population: 1,598,200
- Area: 53,312 ha
- Density: 30 people per hectare
The publication gives a glimpse into the future of Auckland’s urban area based on current council plans, and for which a lot of work is currently going on to plan and build infrastructure to enable. However, based on the images above this level of greenfield growth simply doesn’t seem realistic. Those images show the previous few decades as being perhaps best described as “filling in the gaps and nibbling at the edges“. By contrast the growth allowed for feels at odds with how Auckland has developed over the last few decades which raises questions of just how accurate it will be.
Finally, I quickly put this gif together of the images (although annoyingly they’re not lined up and some are scaled slightly differently)