Auckland City and the Waitemata
A new capital for an emerging nation

Passenger Lists into Auckland

On Monday, February 24th 1840, the 350-ton barque Platina under the command of Captain Wycherley sailed from Gravesend bound for Port Nicholson at Wellington. On board and taking up the bulk of her storage was a pre-fabricated building known as a "Manning Frame House". This building was to be the residence of Governor Captain William Hobson R N. However, as he had not yet determined on the location of his Capital, the house was to be "...delivered to whatever place His Excellency decided upon". Compulsion brought about by the pre-emptive actions of our friends in the New Zealand Company, had been placed on Hobson to annex the country in the name of Great Britain and to establish a Colonial Government in a place he felt most appropriate. "Just do it quickly" may very well have been the words spoken by his superiors in London.

The Platina arrived first in Wellington as it was the shores of Port Nicholson that seemed to be the most obvious choice for the location of a Government. Of the 4,000 odd Europeans resident in New Zealand in early 1840, over half lived around Cooks Strait, and Wellington alone had 1,600. Where Hobson had originally assumed the  posession of the Colony, the Bay of Islands, there were but 600 white souls and in the Waitemata only 2. Indeed, were it not for the fact that Hobson, visiting the Auckland Isthmus on the recommendation of the missionary Reverend Henry Williams, fell in love with the area, the Capital may very well have been situated at Wellington. He was certainly urged to do so by the New Zealand Company's officials.

The barque Anna Watson, under the command of Captain Stewart, was despatched from the Bay of Islands to the Waitemata with a number of government officials on board including Captain William Cornwallis Symonds of the 97th Regiment of Foot, Mr Felton Mathew the Surveyor General, the harbourmaster and the Superintendent of Public Works. On arriving they found that the Platina had anchored three days earlier, after voyaging from Wellington with Governor Hobson's pre-fabricated residence. Thus it was that they complied with their instructions to "...have the house carefully forwarded to any place Governor Hobson might indicate..."

At 1:00pm on Friday September the 18th 1840, Captain Symonds, as the chief magistrate present, raised the Union Jack proclaiming the founding of the new Capital of New Zealand. This was immediately followed by a 21 gun salute from Anna Watson and a 15 gun salute from Platina after which the ceremonial party returned to Anna Watson for lunch. That afternoon a regatta was held on the waters of the sparkling Waitemata which involved races amongst a variety of vessels including Maori canoes.

Sparce, unpopulated and overgrown with fern as the new Capital was, it soon drew settlers from other parts of the Colony and even from Australia - the magical formula being the declaration of the Capital, the establishment of the seat and offices of Government and the right accorded the settlers that, pending a forthcoming survey of the town by the Surveyor General, they were allowed to squat on the land. Interestingly enough it was this very process that gave Auckland's bays their oddly distinctive names. Official Bay, banned to all others, was the exclusive preserve of Government officials, Mechanics' Bay, further to the east, was the original abode of a number of Mechanics (manual labourers working at a trade) whereas Commercial Bay (originally Store Bay after the Government Store which was the only source of supplies) was the place where other settlers were directed to pitch their tents.

The Capital in those days had a dire shortage of labour and an attempt was made to entice "Mechanics" away from the New Zealand Company settlement at Wellington. The following advertisement, appearing in the "New Zealand Gazette and Britannia Spectator", caused anger and irritation amongst Colonel Wakefield's settlers.

Government Notice

Police Office, Port Nicholson
November 5, 1840
The undermentioned Mechanics will be engaged for the service of the Government at Auckland, at the terms stated, viz.:- Four carpenters, first rate, 9s. per diem;  six carpenters, second rate, 8s. per diem;  six pairs of sawyers, 8s. 6d. per diem;  three brick- layers, 7s. 6d. per diem; two stone masons, 7s. 6d. per diem. Sixpence per day extra, if they find themselves with provisions. The mechanics will be allowed one quarter of an acre of land to reside on whilst in the service of the Government, at a peppercorn rent. Provisions will be supplied at cost price; the wages to commence on arrival in Auckland; the engagement to be for six or twelve months, at the option of the Lieutenant-Governor.
Michael Murphy,
Chief Police Magistrate.

Governor Hobson made a point of ensuring that the British officials back home knew how important it was to direct new settlers to the shores of the Waitemata. As such, on October 10th 1842, two vessels, the Duchess of Argyle and the Jane Gifford, arrived in the harbour with upwards of 500 passengers on board, many of whom were skilled artisans. Unfortunately Hobson was not to live to see this the first accomplishment of his supreme vision and the culmination of his endeavours. On September 10th 1842, one month to the day before the Duchess of Argyle and Jane Gifford sailed into the Waitemata, Captain William Hobson Royal Navy, First Governor of New Zealand and joint author of its destiny, died. Worn out by broken health and by the cares of his difficult, demanding and often anxious responsibilities William Hobson died a young man. Were he to see his city in this present day, unrecognisable tho' many of the landmarks might be, he would be buoyed by it's growth, it's economic success and by it's place on the world stage.

Copyright Denise & Peter 2000, 2001