Birkenhead, New Zealand
The sugar refinery, a local landmark.
Location of Birkenhead in Auckland.
|Local authority||Auckland Council|
|Electoral ward||North Shore ward|
|Date established||1883 (Approx.)|
|Ferry terminal(s)||Birkenhead Ferry Terminal|
In November 2010, the suburb was included into the North Shore ward, one of the thirteen administrative divisions of the newly-formed Auckland Council. Under the council, Birkenhead is part of the Kaipatiki Local Board Area.
It is surrounded by the suburbs of Northcote and Highbury to the north and Chelsea and Chatswood to the west. The southern part of the suburb is known as Birkenhead Point and lies on a promontory between Chelsea Bay and Little Shoal Bay, one kilometre to the west of the northern approaches to the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Birkenhead was described as "wild and bleak" by The New Zealand Herald in 1883, as it was isolated from the city of Auckland by the harbour, and was little occupied. However, in 1882 it was chosen as the site of New Zealand's only sugar refinery, and in 1883 work began on what was later known as the Chelsea Sugar Refinery. The company built houses for its many new workers and thus the suburb of Birkenhead began. The Refinery was the main source of work for the area for many years, and still operates today.
Once the site of ancient kauri forests, Birkenhead was the site of temporary gum-diggers' camps: as men and women sought to dig up the lucrative fossilized resin. Auckland families would cross the Waitemata Harbour by ferry at weekends to dig in the fields around Birkenhead, causing damage to public roads and private farms, and leading to local council management of the problem.
In 1883 a farm estate called "Mayfield" was auctioned and subsequently subdivided for housing sections. Birkenhead was probably named after the town of the same name across the River Mersey from the city of Liverpool, developed during the middle of the 19th century by ship builder "John Laird". The English Birkenhead was noted for its elegant and expensive houses, its sea views and its charmingly laid out picturesque park copied by New York's Central Park.
Birkenhead was one of several areas on the North Shore popular as a location for the homes of successful middle-class people. These men, usually professionals or business owners, would use the Auckland Harbour Ferry Services to commute to Auckland. The wharves at Devonport, Northcote and Birkenhead were very busy until the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959 changed things forever. The ferry to Birkenhead was resumed in the 1980s and since the increase in congestion on the bridge, the usage of the Birkenhead Ferry has grown considerably.
Birkenhead was one of the suburbs that formed the area administered by Birkenhead Borough Council, which started in 1888 and in 1978 merged into Birkenhead City Council and then amalgamated into North Shore City Council. North Shore City Council was amalgamated into Auckland Council in November 2010.
Mayors during Birkenhead Borough Council
- 1888–1901 Charles Edward Button
- 1901–1905 Joseph Howard Witheford
- 1905–1906 Albert Frederick Porter
- 1906–1911 Alexander Keyes
- 1911–1912 John Green Kay
- 1912–1915 William Wallace
- 1915–1921 James Prentice McPhail
- 1921–1922 John William Court
- 1922–1923 Albert Hadfield
- 1923–1925 Edward Cranston Walton
- 1925–1929 Ernest Gilbert Skeates
- 1929–1932 James Prentice McPhail
- 1932–1936 George Mills
- 1936–1953 Ernest John Osborne
- 1953–1959 Clifford John Utting
- 1959–1968 Alfred Cyril Crocombe
- 1968–1977 Bertie Lee Stanley
- 1977–1978 Graham Edward Stott
Mayors during Birkenhead City Council
- 1978–1986 Graham Edward Stott
- 1986–1989 Margaret Ann Hartley
- Clement Lindley Wragge, the meteorologist who began the tradition of using people's names for cyclones lived his final years at 8 Awanui Street, Birkenhead and planted palms in his, and neighbours', gardens.
- Rudall Hayward was an early NZ film-maker, producing Rewi's Last Stand (see Cinema of New Zealand)
- Hone Tuwhare, the poet, was briefly a Birkenhead Borough Councillor
- Hon Mike Rann CNZM, former Premier of South Australia, Australian High Commissioner to UK and Ambassador to Italy, lived in Birkenhead from 1964 to 1977.
Birkenhead School and Verran Primary School are coeducational contributing primary (years 1-6) schools with a decile rating of 10 and 7, and rolls of 341 and 243 respectively. Birkenhead School was founded in 1919 as an extension of Northcote School. Verran Primary School was founded in 1964.
- The Heart of Colonial Auckland, 1865-1910. Terence Hodgson. Random Century NZ Ltd 1992.
- The Story of Birkenhead. Margaret McClure. Birkenhead City Council 1987. 223 pages.
- Birkenhead School website
- Verran Primary School website
- Birkenhead Community Facilities Trust
- Photographs of Birkenhead held in Auckland Libraries' heritage collections.