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History and heritage

Auckland and our city centre have intriguing heritage stories to tell, with 1000 years of Māori history and almost 180 years of European history embedded in the fabric of this place.

Our heritage is an important part of our identity, and we’re supportive of the efforts of mana whenua, Auckland Council, heritage advocates and Aucklanders to celebrate and protect the history of the area.

Celebrating our heritage

  • Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival – celebrating the unique Māori history, heritage and contemporary culture of Tāmaki Makaurau on Auckland Anniversary Weekend each year. Delivered byTātaki Auckland Unlimited in partnership with the 19 mana whenua of Tāmaki Makaurau. View website.
  • Auckland Heritage Festival – exploring the heritage of our region, the people who made Auckland what it is today and the way diverse cultures from all corners of the world have contributed to Auckland’s heritage. Delivered by Auckland Council. View website.
  • Lighting of heritage buildings – we have lit a number of buildings in the city centre as a way of profiling our wonderful heritage - Blacketts Building (86 - 92 Queen Street), Landmark House (187-189 Queen Street) and Imperial Building (44-48 Queen Street)
  • Heritage walks – take a self-guided tour taking in Auckland’s original shoreline and early built heritage from the colonial era. Published by Heart of the City in partnership with the former Auckland City Council. Request a hard copy by contacting us.
  • Our museums – the New Zealand Maritime Museum and Auckland War Memorial Museum are fantastic assets for exploring Auckland’s history

The early days of Auckland

The Auckland/Tāmaki area was first populated by Māori around a thousand years ago. The area where the central city was settled was occupied by Ngati Whatua from the mid-seventeenth century, then in 1840, 3000 acres of land adjoining the Waitematā Harbour were gifted to Governor Hobson on behalf of the crown by Ngati Whatua leader Te Kawau.

Auckland and the central city area as we know it today dates back to 1840, when it was chosen as New Zealand’s capital and served that role for 25 years. The government centre was based around the Princes Street area, with Government House, parliament, the court and the barrack for the British 58th Regiment.

By 1844 Queen, Princes and Shortland Streets were formed and metalled. Initially, development focused on Commercial Bay at the bottom of Queen Street, but by the mid-1860s Queen Street began to progressively overtake Shortland Street as the main commercial strip.

In the 1870s and 1880s the colonial population grew quickly and the Auckland Art Gallery and library, the hospital and many churches, hotels and commercial buildings were built. From the 1880s the area we now know as Britomart was developed with warehouses, factories, shipping offices and a 24-hour flour mill.

Historical buildings from the 19th century still feature prominently in our cityscape today.

Find out more

Find out more about Auckland’s heritage from Auckland Council.


  • Landmark House on Queen Street in Auckland's city centre. Image: Sacha Stejko.