Manukau Harbour

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Manukau Harbour
The Manukau Harbour opens out into the Tasman Sea.
The Manukau Harbour Heads in 1960. The area in the foreground has since naturally filled with sand past the rock to the right of the photo. Manukau Harbour Heads 1960.jpg
The Manukau Harbour Heads in 1960. The area in the foreground has since naturally filled with sand past the rock to the right of the photo.

The Manukau Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in New Zealand by area. [1] It is located to the southwest of the Auckland isthmus, and opens out into the Tasman Sea.



The harbour mouth is between the northern head ("Burnett Head" / "Ohaka Head") located at the southern end of the Waitākere Ranges and South Head at the end of the Āwhitu Peninsula reaching up from close to the mouth of the Waikato River. The mouth is only 1800 metres wide, but after a nine kilometre channel it opens up into a roughly square basin 20 kilometres in width. The harbour has a water surface area of 394 square kilometres. There is a tidal variation of up to 4 metres, a very substantial change, especially since the harbour, being silted up with almost 10 million years of sedimentation, is rather shallow itself. [2]

Because of the large harbour area and narrow mouth between the Manukau Heads, tidal flow is rapid and a bar at the mouth makes navigating in or out of the harbour dangerous. New Zealand's most tragic shipwreck occurred on the bar in 1863 when HMS Orpheus ran aground in clear weather with a loss of 189 lives. For this reason, along with the harbour's shallowness, it is not Auckland's favoured port, and, with only one short wharf, the facilities at Onehunga are tiny compared to the other Ports of Auckland facilities on the Waitematā Harbour along the northeast of the isthmus.

The harbour has three main arms. The Mangere Inlet at the northeast lies close to Auckland's central city area, with the inner suburbs of Onehunga and Te Papapa situated close to its northern shore. The Otahuhu and Mangere urban areas lie south of this arm, which is crossed by the Mangere Bridge. In the southeast is the Papakura Channel, which extends into the urban area of Papakura. In the southwest a further inlet known as the Waiuku River reaches south to the town of Waiuku. The harbour reaches into Mangere Lagoon, which occupies a volcanic crater. Auckland Airport is located close to the harbour's eastern shore.


The harbour was an important historical waterway for Māori. It had several portages to the Pacific Ocean and to the Waikato River, and various villages and (hill forts) clustered around it. Snapper, flounder, mullet, scallops, cockles and pipi provided food in plentiful amounts. [3]

Cornwallis, beside the Puponga Peninsula, was the first site for the future city of Auckland. However, because of fraudulent land sales and rugged conditions, the settlement was abandoned in the 1840s. The surrounding bush clad hills had vast amounts of kauri removed for milling and shipped from a wharf on Paratutai to either the other end of the harbour at Onehunga for use in house building in the new city of Auckland, or along the coast to other New Zealand settlements. The last mills were abandoned in the early 1920s.[ citation needed ]

European settlement of the area was thus almost often an outgrowth of the Waitematā Harbour-centred settlement, as these settlers spread south and west through the isthmus and reached the Manukau Harbour. One of the few separate earlier European settlements was Onehunga, from where some raiding of enemy settlements occurred during the New Zealand wars, and which later became a landing point for kauri and other products landed by ship and canoe from the south, the shipping route being shorter than the one along the east coast to the Waitematā Harbour. [4] However, the combination of the difficult entry into the harbour, which limited ships to about 1,000 tons maximum, [4] and the extension of the railway to Onehunga in 1873 made naval traffic on the harbour less important again, though the Port of Onehunga can trace its origins to this time. [5]

Construction of a canal between the Manukau and the Waitemata was considered in the early 1900s, and the Auckland and Manukau Canal Act 1908 was passed to allow authorities to take privately owned land for this purpose. However, no serious work (or land take) was undertaken. The act was reported as technically still being in force as of 2008, [6] but was repealed on 1 November 2010. [7] A 2,700 ft (0.82 km) canal reserve, 2 ch (40 m) wide, [8] remains in place. [9]


The harbour is popular for fishing, though entry to the water is difficult with few all-tide boat ramps; often local beaches are used. The harbour also houses five active sailing clubs, three on the southern side, one near Mangere Bridge, and one on the northern side. Since 1988, there has been an annual interclub competition, hosted by each club in rotation.

Ecological threats

Despite all that is precious about the Manukau, it is under ongoing threat from constant development and growth, with the pollution and damage that brings. Currently, according to the State of Auckland Marine Report Card, the harbour has a D-rating overall, based on water quality, contaminants and sediment, and ecology.

Careful and integrated management of land-based activities, such as development through good land-use practices, and commitment to a programme of integrated management is required to reverse this situation and secure a healthy, productive and sustainable resource for everybody now and for future generations.

In response to concern about the deteriorating state of the Manukau Harbour and the urgent need for a collaborative response to improve its condition, the Manukau Harbour Forum was created in November 2010 to advocate for the restoration of Manukau Harbour. [10]

Related Research Articles

Manukau City Territorial authority of New Zealand in North Island

Manukau City was a territorial authority district in Auckland, New Zealand, that was governed by the Manukau City Council. The area is sometimes referred to as "South Auckland", although this term never possessed official recognition and does not encompass areas such as East Auckland, which was within the city boundary. It was a relatively young city, both in terms of legal status and large-scale settlement – though in June 2010, it was the third largest in New Zealand, and the fastest growing. In the same year, the entire Auckland Region was amalgamated under a single city authority, Auckland Council.

Franklin District Former territorial authority in New Zealand

Franklin District was a New Zealand territorial authority that lay between the Auckland metropolitan area and the Waikato Plains. As a formal territory it was abolished on 31 October 2010 and divided between Auckland Council in the Auckland Region to the north and Waikato and Hauraki districts in the Waikato region to the south and east. The Auckland portion is now part of the Franklin ward, which also includes rural parts of the former Manukau City.

Waiuku Place in Auckland Region, New Zealand

Waiuku is a rural town in the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located at the southern end of the Waiuku River, which is an estuarial arm of the Manukau Harbour, and lies on the isthmus of the Āwhitu Peninsula, which extends to the northeast. It is 40 kilometres southwest of Auckland city centre, and 12 kilometres north of the mouth of the Waikato River.

Auckland Region Region of New Zealand

The Auckland Region is one of the sixteen regions of New Zealand, named for the city of Auckland, the country's largest urban area. The region encompasses the Auckland metropolitan area, smaller towns, rural areas, and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Containing 34 percent of the nation's residents, it has by far the largest population and economy of any region of New Zealand, but the second-smallest land area.

South Auckland

South Auckland is an imprecisely defined urban area of Auckland, New Zealand, with a young population, a relatively large Polynesian and Māori demographic, and lower incomes than other parts of Auckland. The name South Auckland, though not an official place name, has come into common use among New Zealanders. It also appears in the names of some organisations and companies.

Waitematā Harbour

Waitematā Harbour is the main access by sea to Auckland, New Zealand. For this reason it is often referred to as Auckland Harbour, despite the fact that it is one of two harbours adjoining the city. The harbour forms the northern and eastern coasts of the Auckland isthmus and is crossed by the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is matched on the southern side of the city by the shallower waters of the Manukau Harbour.

Onehunga Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Onehunga is a suburb of Auckland in New Zealand and the location of the Port of Onehunga, the city's small port on the Manukau Harbour. It is eight kilometres south of the city centre, close to the volcanic cone of Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill. It was formerly governed by Auckland City Council until the merger of all of Auckland's councils into the 'super city' in 2010.

Whau River

The Whau River is an estuarial arm of the southwestern Waitemata Harbour within the Auckland metropolitan area in New Zealand. It flows north for 5.7 kilometres (3.5 mi) from its origin at the confluence of the Avondale Stream and Whau Stream to its mouth between the Te Atatū peninsula and the long, thin Rosebank Peninsula in Avondale. It is 800 metres (2,600 ft) at its widest and 400 metres (1,300 ft) wide at its mouth.

Panmure, New Zealand Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Panmure is an east Auckland suburb, in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located 11 kilometres southeast of the Auckland CBD, close to the western banks of the Tamaki River and the northern shore of the Panmure Basin. To the north lies the suburb of Tamaki, and to the west is the cone of Maungarei / Mount Wellington.

Māngere Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Mangere, is one of the largest suburbs in Auckland, in northern New Zealand. It is located on mainly flat land on the northeastern shore of the Manukau Harbour, to the northwest of Manukau City Centre and 15 kilometres south of the Auckland city centre. It is the location of Auckland Airport, which lies close to the harbour's edge to the south of the suburb.

Mangere Bridge (bridges)

Māngere Bridge, officially also called the Manukau Harbour Crossing, is a dual motorway bridge over the Manukau Harbour in south-western Auckland, New Zealand, crossing between the suburb also known as Māngere Bridge and the suburb of Onehunga.

Ōtāhuhu Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Ōtāhuhu is a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand – 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) to the southeast of the CBD, on a narrow isthmus between an arm of the Manukau Harbour to the west and the Tamaki River estuary to the east. The isthmus is the narrowest connection between the North Auckland Peninsula and the rest of the North Island, being only some 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) wide at its narrowest point, between the Otahuhu Creek and the Mangere Inlet. As the southernmost suburb of the former Auckland City, it is considered part of South Auckland.

Mangere Inlet

Mangere Inlet is an arm of the Manukau Harbour, the southwestern of the two harbours of Auckland, New Zealand and itself an arm of the Tasman Sea. The inlet lies between the two cities of Auckland City and Manukau City and has a size of 6.6 km2 and a catchment of 34.5 km2, being considered to extend to just west of Onehunga. It is an environment highly modified by land reclamation and human uses, with the northern shoreline especially affected. However, the inlet also acts as a natural sedimentation sink, thus being especially at risk of contamination.

History of Auckland History of the city of Auckland, New Zealand

The human history of the Auckland metropolitan area stretches from early Māori settlers in the 14th century to the first European explorers in the late 18th century, over a short stretch as the official capital of (European-settled) New Zealand in the middle of the 19th century to its current position as the fastest-growing and commercially dominating metropolis of the country.

Te Kawerau ā Maki Māori iwi (tribe) in New Zealand

Te Kawerau ā Maki, Te Kawerau a Maki, or Te Kawerau-a-Maki is a Māori iwi (tribe) of the Auckland Region of New Zealand. It had 251 registered adult members as of June 2017. Auckland Council gave it land for a marae at Te Henga in 2018; it has no wharenui yet.

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a large metropolitan city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of about 1,470,100. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,717,500. While Europeans continue to make up the plurality of Auckland's population, the city became multicultural and cosmopolitan in the late-20th century, with Asians accounting for 31% of the city's population in 2018. Auckland is also home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki desired by many", in reference to the desirability of its natural resources and geography.

The Auckland Region of New Zealand is built on a basement of greywacke rocks that form many of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, the Hunua Ranges, and land south of Port Waikato. The Waitākere Ranges in the west are the remains of a large andesitic volcano, and Great Barrier Island was formed by the northern end of the Coromandel Volcanic Zone. The main isthmus and North Shore are composed of Waitemata sandstone and mudstone, and portions of the Northland Allochthon extend as far south as Albany. Little Barrier Island was formed by a relatively isolated andesitic volcano, active around 1 to 3 million years ago.

Awaroa River (Waikato River tributary)

The Awaroa River is a short river in the Waikato District of New Zealand's North Island. It flows east from its source in the dunes near Karioitahi Beach and Lake Puketi, then south from Waiuku joining with the Aka Aka Stream before reaching the Waikato River in its tidal reaches close to Motutieke Island.

Te Ākitai Waiohua

Te Ākitai Waiohua is a Māori iwi of the southern part of the Auckland Region of New Zealand.

Te Waiohua Māori iwi (tribe) in New Zealand

Te Waiohua or Waiohua is a Māori iwi (tribe) confederation, which thrived in the early 18th century. The hapu's rohe was primarily central Tāmaki Makaurau area and the Māngere peninsula, until the 1740s when the paramount chief Kiwi Tāmaki was defeated by Ngāti Whātua hapū Te Taoū. The desendants of the Waiohua confederation today include Te Ākitai Waiohua, Ngā Oho of Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei and Waikato Tainui.


  1. Cromarty, P.; Scott, D.A., eds. (1995). A Directory of Wetlands in New Zealand (PDF). Wellington: Department of Conservation. p. 25. ISBN   0-478-01776-6.
  2. Manukau Harbour - Formation (from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-01-10.)
  3. Manukau Harbour - Origin of the Name (from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-01-10.)
  4. 1 2 "Auckland: Soldiers of fortune". The New Zealand Herald . 26 August 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  5. Manukau Harbour - European Settlement (from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-01-10.)
  6. Andrew Koubaridis & Craig Borley (31 May 2008). "Weird old laws can still trap the unwary". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  8. "AtoJs Online — Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1921 Session I-II — H-15a Auckland Canals and Inland Waterways Commission. (Report of the)". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  9. (GBS), Geographic Business Solutions. "Walking Access Mapping System". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  10. "How Auckland Council works". Auckland Council. Retrieved 2018-07-11.

Coordinates: 37°00′S174°40′E / 37.000°S 174.667°E / -37.000; 174.667