The latest population figures from June last year estimate the Auckland region's population - from Mangawhai in the north to Pukekohe in the south - at 1,251,400. That is 32 per cent of New Zealand's 3.94 million people even though Auckland takes up only 2 per cent of the land mass.

Auckland's population dwarfs the next most populated region, Canterbury, with 503,800 people, followed by Wellington 445,400, and Waikato 373,200.

Auckland casts a mighty shadow over New Zealand. Few cities in the world dominate their national horizons as Auckland does, housing overwhelmingly the biggest population, the most powerful economy and the most diverse people in the country. And that's without the traffic.

But is Auckland our crowning glory or a blot on the national landscape? Is its stature good for the city - and for the rest of the country?

In a special series the Herald looks at the place of Auckland. We look through outsiders' eyes at the role of the region, see what it shares with the rest of the country and how it is different, examine why it attracts so many people, wonder if Auckland actually exists as a single entity - and walk the street at the city's heart.

Herald feature: Mighty Auckland