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Auckland CBD

Coordinates: 36°50′49″S 174°45′54″E / 36.847°S 174.765°E / -36.847; 174.765
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Auckland CBD
Skyline of the CBD as seen from Devonport
Skyline of the CBD as seen from Devonport
CBD is located in New Zealand Auckland
Auckland CBD is located in the Auckland Region
Location of Auckland CBD
CountryNew Zealand
Local authorityAuckland Council
European settlement established1840[1]
 • Total4.33 km2 (1.67 sq mi)
 (2018 estimate)[2]
 • Total54,620
 • Density13,000/km2 (33,000/sq mi)

The Auckland Central Business District (CBD), or Auckland city centre,[3] is the geographical and economic heart of the Auckland metropolitan area. It is the area in which Auckland was established in 1840, by William Hobson on land gifted by mana whenua hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. It is New Zealand's leading financial hub, and the centre of the country's economy; the GDP of the Auckland Region was NZD$139 billion in the year ending September 2023.[4]

The CBD is one of the most densely developed places in New Zealand, with many commercial and some residential developments packed into a space of only 433 hectares (1,070 acres).[1] The area is made up of the city's largest concentration of skyscrapers and businesses. Bounded by several major motorways and by the harbour coastline in the north, it is surrounded further out by mostly suburban areas; it is bounded on the North by Waitematā Harbour, east by Parnell, southeast by Grafton, south by Mount Eden, southwest by Newton, west by Freemans Bay and northwest by Viaduct Harbour.



Located on the northern shore of a narrow isthmus, the CBD extends from the Auckland waterfront on the Waitematā Harbour southwards along Queen Street and a number of other parallel-running streets. The CBD is generally considered to be bounded by the main motorways that surround all non-harbour sides, with State Highway 1 forming the southern and western boundaries, and State Highway 16 / Grafton Gully forming the eastern boundary.[5]

The CBD has an area of 433 hectares (1,070 acres),[1] similar to the Sydney CBD, and twice as large as the CBDs of Wellington and Christchurch.[5] The CBD is to a substantial part located on reclaimed land of the Waitematā Harbour. For a closer discussion of this aspect, see the Commercial Bay and Auckland waterfront articles.


The Auckland waterfront with Māori waka and the original St Paul's Church building above Point Britomart, painted in 1852.
The Dilworth Building, one of the few remaining stately older buildings along Queen Street

On 20 March 1840, paramount chief of the Ngāti Whātua Māori iwi (tribe) of Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) Apihai Te Kawau, signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the te reo Māori translation of the Treaty of Waitangi).[6] Ngāti Whātua sought British protection from Ngāpuhi as well as a reciprocal relationship with the Crown and the Church. Soon after signing Te Tiriti, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei made a tuku (strategic gift) of 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) of land on the Waitematā Harbour to the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, for the new capital, which Hobson named for George Eden, Earl of Auckland, then Viceroy of India.[7][8][9] Auckland was founded on 18 September 1840 and was officially declared New Zealand's capital in 1841.[10][11]

The town of Auckland was created in 1840 with the first European colonisation of the area, marked by an official ceremony on the now non-existent Point Britomart (Te Rerenga Ora Iti). The initial centre of the new town was focused on what is now the corner of Shortland and Queen Streets, which was at the shoreline of Commercial Bay. From approximately their junction, the main wharf ran north off the end of Queen Street, with Shortland Street leading up to St Paul's Church, Fort Britomart and Government House, around which many of the richer people built houses. Shortland Street tended to be the location of the more important businesses and most of the 'luxury' shops of the mid 19th century. The 1850s onwards saw an increasing number of businesses, and especially retail, locating further south along Queen Street, which still to this day forms the 'spine' of the area.[citation needed]

In 1841, one year after the European founding, the census counted approximately 2,000 people, with "mechanics" the largest group at 250, and other groups of note being 150 agricultural labourers, 100 shopkeepers, 100 domestic servants, and 125 "upper class members".[12]

During the remainder of the 19th century, Commercial Bay was progressively filled in, allowing a northward extension of Queen Street and the creation of Fort Street, Customs Street, and Quay Street. The part of Queen Street north of Customs Street is today referred to informally as Lower Queen Street.[citation needed]

As well as being the location of a great many multi-storey warehouses, initially the Lower Queen Street area also contained many manufacturing businesses, though many of these started to move to other areas such as Freeman's Bay, Newton and Parnell, especially if they took up a large area (such as timber yards) or created noise or pollution (such as brick yards or foundries). Up until the middle of the 20th century the centre of town still contained a large number of small factories including clothing manufacturers.[citation needed]

The relocation of industries to outlying suburbs became especially pronounced in the 1950s, partly due to incentives made by council planners to create industrial areas in Penrose and Rosebank Road (amongst others) and thus rid the inner city area of noise, pollution and heavy traffic. This was mirrored by the development of suburban shopping malls (the first being LynnMall in 1963)[13] which enticed retailers to vacate the inner city as well. Attempts by the council to halt this pattern by constructing numerous public car parking buildings met with varying success. The rise of suburban supermarket and mall shopping that was created in places such as Pakuranga from 1965 onwards has been added to by the appearance of Big Box retailers in places such as Botany and the North Shore.[14]

Residential numbers in the inner city (including the inner suburbs) were also declining in the 20th century from as early as the 1920s. In the two-mile zone surrounding the CBD, there were approximately 70,000 people in 1926, with only around 50,000 in 1966 – a change made even more marked by the development of the remainder of Auckland's population, which grew more than fourfold in the same timeframe.[14] In the 1990s, only a token population of around 1,400 was still residing within the CBD, though this was to grow substantially with a boom of new apartment buildings around the turn of the millennium.[15] More recently, in the early 21st century the CBD has seen a resurgence with strong population growth. As at 2010 there were around 24,000 apartment units.[16] As at 2018 the CBD is growing at six times the rate of the overall region.[17]


Aerial view of the CBD
The CBD economy is dominated by Ports of Auckland and by business and financial support services.



The CBD of Auckland has been the leading centre of New Zealand's business and economic development for nearly two centuries. The area of today's CBD was the site of the original European settlement of Auckland, oriented along the coastline and then Queen Street, in a southward direction. From those origins, it has grown progressively, and become much more densely built-up, now being an area of high-rise buildings mainly used for commercial and retail uses. It has the highest concentration of arts, culture and higher education institutions and venues in the country.[18]

Some commentators have noted that the recent decades have not been kind to the aesthetics and the community values of the inner city. The demolishing of many older buildings, often the prerequisite for low-quality or uninspired new office and residential developments, is considered by them to be due to a combination of developers uninterested in long-term outcomes and council planning direction being too weak.[19]

In an attempt to reverse the decline of aesthetics in the CBD, previous Auckland City Councils and the current unitary Auckland Council have instigated several urban regeneration schemes. These include the recent redevelopment of Aotea Square in 2010[20] and the upgrade of Saint Patrick's Square in 2009.[21]

The area east of the Waitematā railway station is currently undergoing major changes, with the development of new commercial buildings, the restoration of several heritage buildings and development of public spaces, including a new public square named Te Komititanga which opened in 2020.[22] The downtown ferry precinct called Te Wanaga opened in 2021.[23] Another major regeneration scheme currently underway is the redevelopment of Wynyard Quarter, which involves replacing industrial facilities covering a large portion of the CBD waterfront with residential or commercial buildings and public spaces.

The Auckland CBD is one of the few places in New Zealand that has skyscraper-sized buildings, such as the Vero Centre, Commercial Bay (skyscraper), ANZ Centre or the Metropolis, with the Sky Tower rising above them.



Residential high-density buildings constructed within the last decade have helped to increase the population living in the CBD to around 54,620[2] (2018 estimate) from an earlier 21,390 (2006 estimate),[2] all being growth from only 1,400 in 1991.[16][5][18] Much of this growth has been driven by immigration to New Zealand, particularly from Asia, and the CBD is the area in New Zealand with the highest percentage share (32%) of the Asian ethnic group in New Zealand.[24] Also striking is the high number of students (both tertiary education and overseas students studying English in one of the many institutes), making up 27% of all residents (2001 Census) and contributing to the relative youth of the city residents.[25]

With increasing population, available services have also changed – from only about one superette in the early 2000s, this has ballooned to one supermarket and 38 superettes by 2011. In early 2012, two major supermarket chains opened a branch in the city centre, with Countdown opening on Victoria Street in January and New World opening a branch on Queen Street in early March.[26] However, the population remains highly focused on ethnically diverse, mostly young and childless residents.[12]

According to an in-depth study of security perception in the Auckland CBD undertaken in 2005, most visitors and locals feel safe visiting and living in the CBD. Police and the Council have in part ascribed these positive feelings to over a dozen safety initiatives undertaken by authorities (from alcohol bans in parts of the CBD to CCTV surveillance and street lighting measures). However, in spite of the general perception of the CBD being safe, there was a feeling that crime had risen somewhat in the last five years (whereas in fact numbers had declined). This was considered to be mostly due to a media-driven public image.[27]

Late 2000s apartment block on Nelson Street, considered by some to be an "eyesore". Many of these buildings saw strong criticism – and sometimes lack of tenant interest – due to perceived problems with building quality, lack of urban design and too-small unit sizes (with a bylaw banning very small units coming in only in 2005).[28]



With 8,500 businesses, the CBD accounts for 18% of all businesses in Auckland City, with the largest being Ports of Auckland, and the largest employment sectors being financial services, business and ICT services. The CBD is also the largest employment centre in New Zealand, with around 65,000 jobs, representing 13% of the regional workforce, and 25% of the Auckland City workforce. Around 73,000 people enter the CBD every morning between 7 am and 9 am, 60% of these by car,[5] while the total 'turnover' is around 270,000 people per day.[29] In 2003 many large corporations were housed in the Auckland CBD. During the same year, an Auckland City report stated that the Auckland CBD, compared to several central business districts in Australia, had "a broader and more dominant role in its regional economy" compared to the economies of the Australian central business districts.[30]

The CBD remains attractive to shops, partially due to the very high pedestrian numbers on the main shopping streets like Queen Street, where footfalls are estimated to be up to 10 times as high as on Broadway in Newmarket, seen as Queen Street's closest rival.[12]

Auckland CBD has a higher share of employment in large firms than other areas in Auckland. Over half of the large firms in Auckland CBD are in office-based sectors (such as property and business services and finance and insurance) and are in the Downtown and Waterfront areas of the CBD. In 2004 Auckland CBD had 72,540 employees and 9125 businesses. 2006 Auckland CBD had 78,444 employees and 9,461 businesses.[31]

Symonds Street of the Auckland CBD overlooking the Auckland University of Technology (middle) and the University of Auckland (right).

Air New Zealand was formerly headquartered in Auckland CBD. In 2006, from late September to early October, the airline moved employees out of the four buildings it occupied in Auckland CBD and relocated them to the new headquarters in the Wynyard Quarter.[32] In September 2003 Air New Zealand was the only one of the very largest corporations in New Zealand to have its headquarters within the Auckland CBD.[30]



The CBD's main shopping mall, Commercial Bay, opened in 2020.[33] It features 18,000 m2 of lettable real estate space,[34] made up of 120 shops including H&M.[35]

The Atrium on Elliott has 736 carparks and 23 stores, including The Warehouse, Rebel Sport and the Elliott Stables Foodcourt.[36]

The Victoria Park Market was established as a shopping centre in an unused heritage building in 1983.[37] It was extensively renovated between 2008 and 2013.[38] The centre currently features 74 stores,[39] and 194 carparks.[40]

Museums and galleries


Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki has been operating in Auckland CBD in 1888.[41][42]

Since then, several other galleries have also opened in the CBD. Artspace Aotearoa opened in 1987.[43][44] Gus Fisher Gallery opened in 2001.[45][46] St Paul St Gallery opened in 2004.[47][48]

The Dalmatian Archives and Museum, opened in 1989, features the history of Croatian New Zealanders.[49][50]

The New Zealand Maritime Museum, opened in 1993, features the maritime history of the Waitematā Harbour.[51][52]



There are significant educational institutions located in the Auckland CBD, notably the University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology. The CBD also has many of the English language schools for non-native English speakers which form a significant part of Auckland's education business.[53][54]

The Ministry of Education operates state-operated schools throughout the area. Private secondary schools within the CBD include ACG New Zealand International College,[55] ACG Senior College,[56] and Auckland International College.[57]


Now occupying its third building, St Paul's is known as the 'Mother Church' of Auckland as it is the oldest church community in the city, founded within a year of the foundation of the city.[58]

Many of Auckland's historic Christian churches are located in the CBD, although not all are the original buildings. Heritage New Zealand Category 1 Historic Place registered churches include: St Paul's Anglican Church, founded in 1841, St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral was originally built in 1843, St Stephen's Anglican Chapel was originally built in 1844, St Andrew's First Presbyterian Church was built in 1850, Auckland Baptist Tabernacle, founded 1855 and St Matthew's Anglican Church was founded in 1902.[59][60]


The Auckland Ferry Terminal on the waterfront

The CBD, with its substantial employment, and increasing number of residents, contains the main public transport hubs of the city, administered by Auckland Transport. These services are concentrated around the Waitematā railway station (rail and buses) and the nearby Auckland Ferry Terminal, both near the Auckland waterfront. Many bus services travel the length of the CBD along the main streets, in particular via the bus lanes on Albert Street and the Central Connector bus priority route. In 2010, around 33,000 people entered the CBD via public transport every day.[61]

Historically, much of the transport to and around the CBD post-1950s was by private vehicles, partly because the CBD provides numerous parking buildings[14] and parking spaces associated with office buildings, and is almost totally surrounded (and easily accessible) by motorways, administered by Waka Kotahi.

Auckland Council, the New Zealand Government, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail have begun the construction phase of the City Rail Link. Once completed, it will connect the Waitematā railway station more directly to the Western Line in the vicinity of Maungawhau railway station by way of a tunnel running under the CBD. Two new stations are being constructed, one named Karanga-a-Hape railway station near Karangahape Road and another named Te Waihorotiu railway station near Aotea Square, and the existing stations at each end of the link, Waitematā and Maungawhau, are receiving substantial upgrades.[62]

The main street of the CBD is Queen Street, which was upgraded between 2006 and 2008 to modernise it and make it more pedestrian friendly. In 2009, the former Auckland City Council proposed the redevelopment of several CBD streets into shared spaces, with the goal of improving pedestrian and cyclist amenity by slowing down vehicle traffic while retaining the possibility for car access – compared to a pedestrian mall which allows no motor vehicles.[63] Auckland Council is continuing this project. Darby Street, Lorne Street, Fort Street, Jean Batten Place, and Fort Lane have been converted into shared spaces since 2011.[64] The portion of Federal Street between Wellesley Street West and Victoria Street West has also been made shared space.[65]

See also



View over Auckland CBD from the Sky Tower
View of Auckland CBD from the North Shore


  1. ^ a b c d "Auckland places". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "City Centre Facts". ccrg.org.nz. Auckland City Centre Residents' Group. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Building Auckland's city centre". Auckland Council. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Quarterly Economic Monitor | Auckland | Gross domestic product". qem.infometrics.co.nz. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Auckland's CBD at a glance Archived 24 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine (CBD website of the Auckland City Council)
  6. ^ "Āpihai Te Kawau". New Zealand History. NZ Government. Archived from the original on 8 May 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Apihai Te Kawau". Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei. Archived from the original on 11 August 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
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  9. ^ "Statement of evidence of Ngarimu Alan Huiroa Blair on behalf of the plaintiff" (PDF). ngatiwhatuaorakei.com. 2 June 2021. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 August 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
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  14. ^ a b c New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor). David Bateman, 1997. Plate 75
  15. ^ See 'Population' section in this article.
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  19. ^ Michael Stevens: Leaders stand by as city is desecratedThe New Zealand Herald, Thursday, 3 May 2007
  20. ^ "Aotea Square redevelopment". Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
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36°50′49″S 174°45′54″E / 36.847°S 174.765°E / -36.847; 174.765