Landsat image of the island, August 2002.
|Archipelago||New Zealand archipelago|
|Area||92 km2 (36 sq mi)|
|Length||19.3 km (11.99 mi)|
|Width||0.64–9.65 km (0.40–6.00 mi)|
|Coastline||133.5 km (82.95 mi)|
|Highest elevation||231 m (758 ft)|
|Regional Council||Auckland Region|
|Population||8,730 (as of 2011)|
|Density||94.89 /km2 (245.76 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||New Zealanders|
It is the second-largest island in the gulf, after Great Barrier Island. It is the most populated, with nearly 8,730 permanent residents plus another estimated 3,400 who have second or holiday homes on the island. It is New Zealand's most densely populated island, with 83.58 people/km², and the third most populated after the North and South Islands. It is the most accessible island in the gulf, with regular passenger and car ferry services, a Waiheke-based helicopter operator, and other air links.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Governance
- 5 Transport
- 6 Infrastructure
- 7 Education
- 8 Significant events
- 9 Wine
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The island is off the coast of the North Island. It is 19.3 km (12.0 mi) long from west to east, varies in width from 0.64 to 9.65 km (0.40 to 6.00 mi), and has a surface area of 92 km2 (36 sq mi). The coastline is 133.5 km (83.0 mi), including 40 km (25 mi) of beaches. The port of Matiatia at the western end is 17.7 km (11.0 mi) from Auckland and the eastern end is 21.4 km (13.3 mi) from Coromandel. The much smaller Tarahiki Island lies 3 km (1.9 mi) to the east.
The island is very hilly with few flat areas, the highest point being Maunganui at 231 m (758 ft). The climate is slightly warmer than Auckland, with less humidity and rain and more sunshine hours.
There are locations of interest to geologists: an argillite outcrop in Rocky Bay, and a chert stack at the end of Pohutukawa Point, considered as "one of the best exposures of folded chert in Auckland City".
There are many scenic beaches, including:
- Oneroa Beach – The main beach, on the northern side of the town of Oneroa.
- Little Oneroa Beach – A small secluded beach at the east end of Oneroa Beach, separated by a protruding cliff wall.
- Palm Beach – Similar in shape to Oneroa Beach (complete with protruding cliff wall at the east end that separates a small private beach in Boatshed Bay), it gets its name from the mature phoenix palms at the east end.
- Little Palm Beach – A small clothes-optional beach at the west end of Palm Beach.
- Blackpool Beach – The south-facing counterpart of Oneroa Beach, lining Blackpool and popular for kayaking and windsurfing.
- Surfdale Beach – A zoned-in beach on the southern side of Surfdale, separated from Blackpool Beach by a small protruding peninsula, which has a scenic unsealed route called The Esplanade linking the beaches. Popular for kitesurfing.
- Onetangi Beach – A 1.87 km long, north-facing beach lining Onetangi. For many years it has been the site of the Onetangi Beach Races. Its western end, often inaccessible at high tide, is clothes-optional. It has sandcastle building contests annually; participants have a few hours to build their creations in soft sand that is free of shells and suitable for digging.
- Cactus Bay – Considered by many Waihekeans as the most perfect beach and, with nearby Garden Cove, a romantic place for picnicking. The beach is accessible only by boat or kayak, as its land access was blocked off by a private landowner.
The original Maori name for Waiheke was apparently Te Motu-arai-roa, "the long sheltering island" but at the time the first European visitors arrived it was known as Motu-Wai-Heke, "island of trickling waters" - rendered as Motu Wy Hake by James Downie, master of the store ship HMS Coromandel, in his 1820 chart of the Tamaki Strait and the Coromandel coast.
Waiheke has a resident population of 8,730 people (2011) with most living close to the western end, or near the isthmus between Huruhi Bay and Oneroa Bay, which at its narrowest is only 600 metres wide. The settlements of Oneroa and Blackpool are the furthest west, followed by Palm Beach, Surfdale, and Ostend. Further east lies Onetangi, on the northern coast of the wide Onetangi Bay. To the south of this on the opposing coast is Whakanewha Regional Park, Whakanewha, and Rocky Bay (sometimes erroneously called Omiha, for which there is no historical provenance) . Much of the eastern half of the island is privately owned farmland and vineyards.
Waiheke is a popular holiday spot, and during the main summer season, especially around Christmas and Easter, its population increases substantially due to the number of holiday homes being rented out, corporate functions and dance parties at vineyards and restaurants, the Wine Festival and the Jazz Festival and weekend trippers from around the country and the world. The population increases significantly, rents go up, almost all homes and baches are full and a festive atmosphere exists.
The demographic composition is 82% European, 12% Maori, 4% Pacific Islander and 2% Asian. 27% of residents were born outside New Zealand.
Socially the island is highly diverse, with the creative sector (artists, musicians, scientists, writers, poets and actors) and eccentrics strongly represented. It has 1,206 businesses but around 2,000 people commute daily to Auckland as career opportunities are limited. 63% of the residents are in employment. The main employment sectors are hospitality (23%) and retail (15%) followed by education, agriculture/horticulture and healthcare (10% each). Gentrification and land speculation is having an impact, with high rates and mortgage interest rates forcing some people on fixed incomes to relocate. New Zealand council rates are based on land and building valuations, which take into account potential value for redevelopment even if the owners live on the property and have no intention to sell or redevelop. The cost of living is higher compared to the mainland, due to the shipping freight costs of most foodstuffs, fuel and amenities.
The income distribution (2001 Census) shows a higher proportion of lower income groups and a lower proportion of higher income groups compared to the whole of Auckland City. This is partially due to a higher number of pensioners and single parent families who are usually on fixed incomes and poorer. In 2001, the median income for those older than 15 was $15,600 compared to $23,500 in 2006. In 2011 the median household income was $38,725, considerably lower than the Auckland median at $63,387 due to a larger number of pensioners over 65 in the demographic pyramid. The increase in wealth on Waiheke is also reflected in the number of families earning more than $100,000 per year, which has more than doubled in 2007 since 2001.
Race relations are supportive, by New Zealand standards. The local marae was not ancestral Māori land held in Māori title but belonged to the Waiheke County Council. Its citizens, both Pākehā and Māori, got together, arranged for a long-term lease of council-owned land and built the marae. One of the earliest Māori land claims was driven by Waiheke citizens, who at the time did not know who the tangata whenua Māori were for the island.
Waiheke is part of the territorial authority of Auckland. From 1970 until its amalgamation with Auckland City in 1989, it was administered by the Waiheke County Council. Since 1989 there has been an elected community board with limited, mainly representational powers, in line with other neighbourhoods in Auckland City. One member on the City Council represented all the inhabited Hauraki Gulf islands (i.e. Waiheke, Great Barrier and Rakino) plus the downtown area in the central business district.
Amalgamation with Auckland City, later Auckland Council
In 1989 Waiheke County Council was forcibly amalgamated with Auckland City Council as part of Local Government restructuring of that year. Pundits predicted a stormy relationship.
In 1990 the Waiheke Community Board formally requested the right to de-amalgamate from the City. A 'De-amalgamation Committee' was established by Council to facilitate the Board's wish. However, this proved not to be to the liking of most of Auckland's citizens. In 1991, the city responded to a campaign run by a pro-union group, the Waiheke Island Residents & Ratepayers Association (Inc) by holding a democratic referendum. The de-amalgamation proposal sponsored by the Community Board was defeated.
The subject of amalgamation is still a hot topic on the island. In 2008, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance received 3,537 submissions, 615 of which were made by Waihekeans, over 1/6 of all submissions. A public meeting of 150 residents on 29 March 2008 found a majority in favour of breaking away from Auckland City.
The Royal Commission recommended that Waiheke Island retain its community board with enhanced powers. The Waiheke Local Board was elected in the October 2010 Auckland local elections as part of the Auckland Council.
The 2010 local elections resulted in Waiheke resident Mike Lee becoming the Councillor for the Waitemata and Gulf Ward. Denise Roche, Faye Storer, Jo Holmes, Don McKenzie and Jim Hannan were elected to the new Local Board. After Roche's resignation after becoming a member of parliament for the Green Party of New Zealand in 2011, Paul Walden was elected in a by-election.
In 2013 Lee was re-elected. Paul Walden was re-elected to the Local Board, joined by Beatle Treadwell, Becs Ballard, John Meeuwsen and Shirin Brown.
Scheduled ferry services (passenger and freight) sail to and from Waiheke. Fullers runs the main passenger ferry between Matiatia and downtown Auckland, with trips taking about 40 minutes. Sea Link provides passenger, car and freight services between Half Moon Bay in East Auckland and Kennedy Point. Trips take about 50 minutes.
There is one airport on the island, Waiheke Island Aerodrome, served via fixed-wing aircraft by Flight Hauraki and via helicopter by a number of operators. Waiheke is also accessible via a regular seaplane service.
The island has less infrastructure than mainland Auckland. The roads are mainly narrow and in many places unsealed and unlit, especially on the eastern half of the island. The Waiheke Bus Company (owned by Fullers) services most inhabited parts of the island, linking to the ferry sailings from Matiatia.
Waiheke is connected to the North Island's electricity network by twin 33 kV undersea cables from Maraetai on the mainland. Each house must maintain its own water supply, most collecting rainwater in cisterns, and must install a septic tank and septic field to handle sewage. This is a requirement in every building consent.
A fibre optic cable running from Rocky Bay connects the island to the internet. Internet services are provided using VDSL and ADSL, with fibre optic rollouts planned for some areas. Internet speeds are significantly higher in the more developed western side of the island. A locally owned WISP provides internet, however prices are significantly higher than DSL and fibre based competitors. 
The community established a charitable trust which bid on Auckland City's contract for solid waste disposal. After winning the bid, it was implemented with such success that the recycling centre soon had to be expanded to handle the volumes.
The island has a lively press, with two weekly newspapers vying for attention: the long-established independently-owned Waiheke Gulf News and the Fairfax Media owned Waiheke Marketplace. A community radio station, Waiheke Radio, is broadcasting on 88.3 FM and 107.4 FM after Beach FM lost its licence in a commercial bid in 2008.
Waiheke Island has two primary schools and one secondary school. It is the only island in New Zealand, other than the North and South Islands, with a secondary school.
- Te Huruhi School is a state contributing primary (Year 1–6) school in Surfdale, and has 410 students. It opened in 1986 following the split of Waiheke Area School.
- Waiheke High School is a state Year 7–13 secondary school in Surfdale, and has 541 students. It opened in 1986 following the split of Waiheke Area School.
- Waiheke Primary School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school in Ostend, and has 213 students. It opened in 2005.
Stony Batter WWII fortifications
During World War II, three gun emplacements were built on the eastern edge to protect Allied shipping in Waitemata Harbour, in the fear that Japanese ships might reach New Zealand. This mirrored developments at North Head and Rangitoto Island. The guns were never fired in anger. The empty emplacements and the extensive tunnels below them can be visited seven days a week.
Nuclear and GE free zone
Waiheke was the first community in New Zealand to vote for a nuclear free zone and this action is said to have contributed to the national decision to become nuclear-free under David Lange's government.
In 1999 Waiheke's community board voted Waiheke as a "genetic engineering free zone", but this is a matter of principle rather than fact, as only national government controls exist over genetically engineered foods and grains.
The gateway to Waiheke, where the main pedestrian ferry lands over 1 million passengers per year, is a valley and harbour called Matiatia. In 2000 it was purchased by three investors in Waitemata Infrastructure Ltd (WIL). In 2002 WIL proposed to change the Operative District Plan rules for their land to build a major shopping and hotel complex with 29,000 m² of gross floor area on buildable land of approximately 3 hectares. This united the residents of the island in opposition. Over 1,500 adult residents of the island (out of perhaps 3,000) joined together in an incorporated society, the Community and People of Waiheke Island (CAPOW), to oppose the private plan change in court.
In 2004, they won an interlocutory judgement in which the environment court ruled that Auckland City Council had erred in the rules, and the current rules limited controlled development to 5,000 m² in what was called the Visitor Facility Precinct. In 2005, CAPOW won an interim judgement by the court which reduced the proposed redevelopment to about 1/3 of what the investors had originally sought.
This set the stage for confidential negotiations between Auckland's mayor Dick Hubbard and the investors, who on 31 August 2005 (now known as 'Matiatia Day' on the island) sold 100% of the stock in WIL to the city for $12.5 million. The unanimous vote on 30 June 2005 of the City Council to approve the purchase was said to have come about because of the unity of the people of Waiheke Island. The court case finally was concluded with permitted development set at 10,000 m2 of mixed use gross floor development. The Court also found Auckland City Council and WIL liable for costs in relationship to the interlocutory judgement. Since WIL was now owned by Council, it had to write a cheque to CAPOW for $18,000, representing 75% of CAPOW's costs on that matter. This final cheque allowed CAPOW to pay all its debts and balance its books.
The Council organised a design competition in 2006 to find a suitable development plan and project for the Matiatia gateway. The competition winner's design (scheme 201) is available for comment on the Council website. It has already attracted much criticism for the lack of car parking close to the ferry terminal, the transport hub function used by all islanders regularly and almost daily by around 850 commuters to Auckland.
In 2013, Matiatia again became a hotspot for controversy as a group of residents proposes a private marina at the terminal. Some of the veterans of the protests a decade prior (led by local resident, retired newsreader John Hawkesby), re-emerged to oppose.
Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf
Waiheke has become internationally known for the biennial Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf, an “outdoor sculpture exhibition set on a spectacular coastal walkway on Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf”. It takes place towards the end of January until approximately mid February every other year. It was listed by the New York Times as no. 35 in its list of 46 must see places and events for 2013. The sculpture walk attracts thousands of visitors to Waiheke, for example, more than 30,000 people walked the sculpture walk in 2013.
Waiheke has become known as New Zealand's "island of wine," home to a dedicated group of winegrowers who have successfully matched the maritime climate and ancient soil structures to the selection of classical grape varieties to produce red and white wines with distinctive varietal character.
The climate is well suited to growing Bordeaux wine-type grapes, though some Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc varieties are also considered to be good. Waiheke winegrowers regularly win awards for Syrah, proving the island's terroir suits it well.
- Awaroa Vineyard – The organic Awaroa vineyards lie on west-facing slopes among native bush in the middle of Waiheke Island. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are the main varieties planted.
- Cable Bay Vineyards – Cable Bay Vineyards makes wines from grapes grown on Waiheke Island and in Marlborough. Varieties grown include Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Five Hills Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet and Rosé.
- Destiny Bay Vineyards – Destiny Bay is Waiheke Island's only Cabernet blend specialist and first fully certified sustainable winery. The 2007 Magna Praemia is New Zealand's highest rated wine by an international critic, and received 98/100 points by Anthony Dias Blue.
- Edbrooke Vineyard – Jeremy Edbrooke has over 7 acres (28,000 m2) planted in Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot gris grapes which are supplied to Waiheke Island's Passage Rock Wines.
- Fenton Estate – First planted in 1989, Fenton Twin Bays Vineyard is a north-facing property that spans two small bays separated by a peninsula.
- Goldwater Estate – Begun by pioneering Waiheke winemakers Kim and Jeanette Goldwater, Goldwater Estate was among the first wine making operations on Waiheke. Its awards include being named winery of the year by Wines and Spirits Magazine in 2001.
- Isola Estate – Isola Estate has its vineyard in the Onetangi area.
- Jurassic Ridge – Jurassic Ridge is a small, family-owned vineyard and winery, named for the surrounding geology. It produces hand-crafted Syrah, Montepulciano, Pinot gris and Cabernet Franc. Jurassic greywacke is a major feature of the terroir.
- Kennedy Point Vineyard – Kennedy Point Vineyard is on the southwestern side and was established in 1996. It specializes in growing and producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines.
- Man o'War – Situated at the northern end of Waiheke Island, the Man o'War vineyards are planted on numerous small sites on the 5,000-acre (20 km2) Man o'War farm.
- Miro Vineyard – Miro Vineyard produces two wines, both red Bordeaux blends. The vineyard overlooks the ocean at Onetangi Beach.
- Mudbrick Vineyard – Mudbrick is one of the Waiheke's best known wineries and has a Provence-style restaurant made of mudbrick. The vineyard produces Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah grapes.
- Obsidian Vineyard – Obsidian Vineyard in Onetangi. It is a 17-hectare property established in 1993. Obsidian, its flagship wine, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Its label is "Weeping Sands" (the translation of "Onetangi"). In 2007 Obsidian won a trophy and gold medal at the Romeo Bragato National Wine Competition for its first release of the Montepulciano variety.
- Passage Rock Wines – Passage Rock Vineyard is at the eastern end of Waiheke Island at the head of Te Matuku Bay. Its first vines were planted in 1994.
- Peacock Sky – Peacock Sky Vineyard is located in the centre of Waiheke Island with views across the Hauraki Gulf to Auckland.
- Peninsula Estate on Hakaimango Point was planted in 1986/87. These original plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, also now include Chardonnay and Syrah.
- Poderi Crisci Estate
- Ridgeview Estate
- Saratoga Estate
- Stony Batter Estate – Stony Batter Estate, the island's largest vineyard, is at the north-eastern corner of the island
- Stonyridge Vineyard – Stonyridge was founded in 1981 in the Onetangi Valley. Specializing in Bordeaux-style reds, the vineyard's most famous wine is its Stonyridge Larose.
- Te Motu Vineyard – Te Motu Vineyard was established in the Onetangi Valley in 1989. The first vintage was produced in 1993.
- Te Whau Vineyard
- The Hay Paddock – This 12-acre (49,000 m2), stone-walled vineyard on Seaview Road is planted in Syrah vines sourced from the Hermitage AOC region of the Rhone Valley. Cellar-aged collector wines are released under the Harvest Man and Hay Paddock labels.
- Topknot Hill Vineyard
- View East Vineyard – A boutique vineyard on the south eastern corner of Waiheke Island specializing in Syrah.
- Woodside Hill
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