Editorial: North shares more than mutual day

Waka in action during the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival held at the Viaduct Events centre and Basin, Auckland Anniversary Weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Waka in action during the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival held at the Viaduct Events centre and Basin, Auckland Anniversary Weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell

Today is an anniversary not just for Auckland but everywhere from Taupo north. It is roughly a quarter of the country geographically but home to at least half the population, and rising. Tauranga has just displaced Dunedin as the country's fifth largest city. Hamilton moved into fourth place long ago. New Zealand is experiencing more rapid population growth, largely from immigration, than it has known since 1974 and most of those people go to the largest population centre where business opportunities are best, property prices have been rising and the climate is rather nice.

Other cities in what was, briefly in early colonial period, the Auckland province have been enjoying a spillover of population and property prices as retirees and others fled Auckland's costs and congestion. More recently, the Reserve Bank's lending restrictions on Auckland property investors are said to have sent speculators south. Now complaints of congestion are heard from Tauranga too.

So the north shares more than an anniversary holiday, it shares some of the problems of rapid growth. Or at least, most of the north shares them. Northland and the East Coast were part of the province too and they are among the regions that have been missing out on the good times. Northland's lag is the harder to explain. Northland is so accessible from Auckland and so blessed in its climate, landscape and coastal attractions that it should be as rich in opportunities and jobs as the Bay of Plenty.

As the "holiday highway" is widened and upgraded to Warkworth and beyond, Northland will become steadily more accessible and it should be possible to see that development and wealth spread to places such as Kaikohe that are so close to the beauty spots of the Far North. East Coast-Poverty Bay has to work harder for its regional development and it has been doing so. Gisborne is such a long way by road from the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay that it has to survive on its own attractions, which are lovely. It is lucky to have also a strong, cohesive iwi in Ngati Porou.

When Auckland was a province its hinterland was largely in Maori possession. Auckland was the capital of New Zealand but the provincial governments had a great deal of power and competed to attract migration from Britain. The southern settlements had much more land to grant migrants and quickly became more prosperous, particularly after gold was discovered in Otago. Auckland, hungry for farmland, went to war with Maori in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty and confiscations followed.

But the event that gave rise to today's anniversary was a happier one. Ngati Whatua of Orakei had sent a delegation to Waitangi to invite Governor Hobson to locate his capital in its rohe. European settlements brought good trade for hapu and iwi. Missionaries told Hobson a Waitemata site would be ideal and on a fine day in September, 1840, the deal was done for a slice of land that is today the Auckland CBD. The negotiating parties celebrated with boat races on the harbour.

The regatta has a long heritage. Watching it or holidaying anywhere in the old province, there is a great deal to celebrate.

- NZ Herald

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