Auckland's anniversary is not the city's alone, it commemorates the colonial province that spanned the upper North Island from a line drawn through Lake Taupo. Every city and district north of the line is having a holiday today for a reason perhaps even less evident to their residents than it is to Aucklanders.
Nothing especially significant happened at Auckland on the last Monday of January, 1840. The true birth of the settlement was in September that year when emissaries for Governor Hobson reached agreement with the Ngati Whatua of Orakei for the Governor to establish his capital on a wedge of land between Mt Eden and the Waitemata. But the weather is better in January so this was the day later chosen for the provincial holiday.
That sort of pragmatism suits the city better than historical purism. It has never been Auckland's character to look back, or forwards for that matter. Today's urban designers rue the planning, or lack of it, that allowed the city to spread so far in all directions. It is only in the past 70 of Auckland's 175 years that its shape, in their view, went out of control.
If they could wind back the clock to 1945 they would do their utmost to resist pressure from Aucklanders for a harbour bridge. The small communities at Birkenhead Pt and Northcote Pt, Devonport, Takapuna and Milford were adequately served, they think, by ferries from Auckland. Build a bridge and you created a risk that urban development would take over the farmland of Glenfield and the beach bach villages in the East Coast Bays.
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They would do their utmost also to stop the Ministry of Works planning motorways south and west of the city. The southern route extended well past the green fields of Ellerslie and the meatworks at Southdown. If the ministry was not careful its motorway would allow housing to cover the fine farming soils of the Manukau County, absorbing the small towns of Otahuhu and Papatoetoe on the Great South Rd.
There were even plans to put a motorway on a causeway across the Whau estuary to the Te Atatu peninsula which could change the shape of West Auckland, developing to that point along the western rail line at New Lynn, Glen Eden and Henderson.
Today's urban planners might have stopped all these plans during the 1950s - in their dreams. The post-war decades brought a population boom, especially to the warmest and largest of New Zealand's main cities. Aucklanders were moving to the North Shore in great numbers before the bridge was built in 1959. The Government was building big state housing projects at Otara and Mangere in the 1960s. Suburban development crossed the Tamaki inlet to Pakuranga by the end of the decade.
Auckland's landscape and coastal attractions made its sprawl as inevitable as its preference for cars over public transport.
Today's city planners are trying to contain another population surge largely within boundaries reached by the last one. But Auckland has a will of its own. Reaching 175 years with well over a million people should tell planners to go with the flow.