Public transport fed Auckland's growing suburbs. Trams, both horse-driven and electric, connected isolated boroughs and created new suburbs along the way, reports Suzanne McFadden.
If light rail were to run through the veins of inner Auckland again, it would follow a track back in time.
An exploration into a new electric light rail system by Auckland Transport - to relieve the city's age-old ailment of congestion - harks back to the wider city's beginnings with a system replicating part of the old tram network.
It was the trams - reaching out to settlements beyond the crowded city - that first stimulated the growth of Auckland's suburbs.
Towards the end of the 19th century, horse-drawn trams ran on rails down the main roads, carrying passengers from Queen St to Karangahape Rd, following the ridge around Ponsonby Rd before dipping down to the waterfront.
In 1902, electricity-driven trams opened up a whole new world " tram tracks soon radiated out from the central city, connecting isolated boroughs. Farmland along the lines filled with housing. From downtown to Onehunga, it was the world's only coast-to-coast tramway system until the tracks were torn up in 1956 to make way for more cars.
The electric tram re-invented Dominion Rd. In the 19th century, it was common to see Mt Eden residents - mostly small farm owners - walking to church in downtown Auckland on a Sunday. Dominion Rd farmer William Patterson introduced a horse-bus service to the city in the 1870s, but only wealthy residents could afford to use it.
As it first trundled down Auckland's longest stretch of straight road in 1908, the tram brought with it new opportunities. Patterson subdivided his sprawling farm and created the township of Balmoral. Clusters of shops sprouted along Dominion Rd; residents no longer had to trudge into the city centre to buy groceries. Tinkers would visit in their carts to mend pots, and sharpen knives.
Today Dominion Rd - 7km from Eden Terrace to Waikowhai - has its own iconic Mutton Birds' song, and its own website, with the tagline "Auckland's world within a street". The strip is a bustling assortment of shops, community centres and original villas and bungalows - and is a multicultural melting pot.
A 2011 Massey University study suggested that with large sections of Dominion Rd becoming "distinct ethnic precincts" over the past two decades, it was the perfect place to recreate Auckland's Chinatown. In the 1900s, Chinatown was found in the narrow central-city streets around Grey's Ave, where Chinese migrant families opened fruit shops, grocery stores and laundries. Today, Asian food shops and restaurants dominate the retail quarters along Dominion Rd, helping migrants retain their cultural identities in a new city.
ONEHUNGA STOOD at the end of the old tramline. For so long a thriving settlement in its own right, the trams connected it with Auckland, at the opposite end of the isthmus.
For 60 years, the port on the Manukau Harbour stood as a crucial link to the rest of colonial New Zealand. Onehunga was the main settlement of Ngati Whatua, who had slowly returned after the Musket Wars - when Sydney timber merchant Thomas Mitchell was the first European to buy land from them in 1835. Within two decades, the British population swelled to 1000; Governor George Grey had enticed retired British soldiers to migrate with the promise of one acre and a cottage in return for forming a defence line around the port settlement against a feared Maori uprising. But the attack never eventuated, and the Fencibles never fired a shot.
With no access to the south by road, Onehunga grew in strength as a port. Ships from Britain would dock there and the journey north from New Zealand's other burgeoning centres was much shorter up the west coast to Onehunga than to the Waitemata on the east.
When the main trunk railway line provided a land-link between Auckland and Wellington in 1908, the Onehunga port gradually lost importance. But it refused to die; today it services a steady flow of coastal traders and the local fishing fleet.
In the 1880s, after building elegant marine villas in St Mary's and Herne Bays, prosperous Aucklanders needed transport to the city's centre. So Auckland's first horse-tram route ran to the flourishing suburb of Ponsonby.
College Hill was too steep for the horses and their loads, so they trotted along Karangahape Rd - the ridge overlooking the Waitemata was a well-worn route for Maori to the west and the northern shores of the Manukau. At the end of the horse-tram route, the Three Lamps shopping centre grew.
Like that first tram track, Ponsonby's social standing has come full circle. In the 1950s and 60s, as people moved to new outer suburbs and a motorway cut through Freemans Bay, rents plummeted and the economic fortunes west of the CBD collapsed too. In Ponsonby, Newton and Grey Lynn, a wave of Pacific Islanders who'd come to ease the post-war labour shortage, rented the run-down villas and workers' cottages. Alongside the artists and bohemians, Auckland's first Pacific settlers created a distinct culture in Ponsonby, with their music, sport, church and a strong sense of community.
The suburb again altered dramatically in the 1990s; the predominant Polynesian population was replaced by upwardly mobile Pakeha. Second-hand stores and fruit and vegetable shops became chic bars, restaurants and boutiques. The re-gentrification of Ponsonby was complete.
Royal Oak Zoo
It may have been the reek of rotting meat, the roars in the night, the legal wrangles, or even the runaway lion. But Auckland's first zoo was eventually forced to close its gates after 10 years of relentless war.
Retired builder John James Boyd was determined to give Aucklanders a zoo, after opening animal parks in Wanganui and Christchurch. So in 1911 - with a personal menagerie including lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and a large flock of birds - Boyd opened the Royal Oak Zoo on a 2.5ha plot on Symonds St, Onehunga. On weekends, trams would bring Aucklanders to visit his vast collection of creatures, listen to bands and ride the merry-go-round.
While crowds flocked, the surrounding residents were disenchanted by the zoo next door, and a decade-long war was waged between Boyd and the Onehunga Borough Council. Neighbours complained of the stench of animals slaughtered for lion food, and strange noises from nocturnal beasts. A lion cub once escaped, but was found cowering under a nearby hedge, herded there by cows.
Though neighbours voiced their anger at the zoo gates, Boyd's park remained popular and, in 1917, he was voted mayor of Onehunga.
Boyd lost the legal battles and in 1922 closed the zoo down. He convinced the Auckland City Council to buy 11 lions, six bears, two wolves and two dogs " who found a home in the new Auckland Zoological Park, which opened at Western Springs later that year.
The site of Boyd's zoo later became a World War II hospital for American Marines, and is now Royal Oak Intermediate School.
Where the names come from
• Albany: Named in 1890 after the Duke of Albany, Prince Leopold, son of Queen Victoria. The Maori name for the area is Okahukura: of red cloaks.
• Howick: Named for Henry George Grey, Viscount Howick, responsible for the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps immigration scheme which brought English farmer-soldiers to settle and defend the area in the 1840s.
• Mangere: The name comes from the Maori "hau mangere" - lazy winds; Mangere mountain provides shelter from the prevailing westerly wind.
• Manurewa: Derived from the legend Te manu rewa o Tamapahore - the drifting kite of Tamapahore. Chief Tamapahore was winning a kite-flying competition until his jealous brother severed the kite's cord.
• Pakuranga: Translates to "battle of the sun's rays". A fierce battle over forbidden love raged between two patupaiarehe - fairy people of the forest - until a priest caused the sun to rise and the earth to explode. Caught by the rays of the sun and volcanic eruptions, many patupaiarehe perished.
• Remuera: Don't get annoyed when people pronounce it "Remuwera", because technically, they're right. The original name of Mt Hobson, Remuwera means "the burnt end of a flax garment", after a visiting chieftainess was killed and put in an umu (oven), still in her piupiu (flax skirt).