Birkenhead, New Zealand

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The sugar refinery, a local landmark.
The sugar refinery, a local landmark.
Location of Birkenhead in Auckland.
CountryNew Zealand
Local authorityAuckland Council
Electoral wardNorth Shore ward
Local boardKaipātiki Local Board
Established1883 (Approx.)
 • Total10,536
Ferry terminal(s)Birkenhead Ferry Terminal
Highbury Northcote Northcote
(Waitemata Harbour) (Waitemata Harbour) (Waitemata Harbour)

Birkenhead is a suburb of Auckland, in northern New Zealand. It is located on the North Shore of the Waitemata Harbour, four kilometres northwest of the Auckland CBD.

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 to the east, Glenfield to the north and Birkdale, 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.

The shopping area is known as the Birkenhead Town Centre with the term Highbury being used for the older shopping centre at the junction of Birkenhead Avenue and Mokoia Road.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [1]

Birkenhead, comprising the statistical areas of Birkenhead West, Birkenhead North and Birkenhead South, had a population of 10,536 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 894 people (9.3%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 1,230 people (13.2%) since the 2006 census. There were 3,780 households. There were 5,022 males and 5,514 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.91 males per female, with 1,836 people (17.4%) aged under 15 years, 2,037 (19.3%) aged 15 to 29, 5,010 (47.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 1,653 (15.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 75.7% European/Pākehā, 6.7% Māori, 2.9% Pacific peoples, 20.0% Asian, and 3.9% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 39.0%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 53.4% had no religion, 33.6% were Christian, and 7.3% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 3,495 (40.2%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 753 (8.7%) people had no formal qualifications. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 4,755 (54.7%) people were employed full-time, 1,281 (14.7%) were part-time, and 216 (2.5%) were unemployed.[1]


Birkenhead was originally known as Woodside, but was registered as Birkenhead in on 23 June 1863 by Samuel Broker because it reminded him of the English town of Birkenhead which is across from the city of Liverpool, separated by the River Mersey, just as Birkenhead is separated from Auckland by the Waitematā Harbour.[2]

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.[citation needed] 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.[3] 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; in 1910 a third of the adult men who lived in Birkenhead worked at the sugar refinery.[3] In 1883 a farm estate called "Mayfield" was auctioned and subsequently subdivided for housing sections.[citation needed]

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.[4]

Birkenhead was one of several areas on the North Shore popular as a location for the homes of successful middle-class people.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Mayors during Birkenhead Borough Council[edit]

Name Term
1 Charles Button 1888–1901
2 Joseph Witheford 1901–1905
3 Albert Frederick Porter 1905–1906
4 Alexander Keyes 1906–1911
5 John Green Kay 1911–1912
6 William Wallace 1912–1915
7 James McPhail 1915–1921
8 John William Court 1921–1922
9 Albert Hadfield 1922–1923
10 Edward Cranston Walton 1923–1925
11 Ernest Skeates 1925–1929
(7) James McPhail 1929–1932
12 George Mills 1932–1936
13 Ernie Osborne 1936–1953
14 Cliff Utting 1953–1959
15 Cyril Crocombe 1959–1968
16 Bert Stanley 1968–1977
17 Graham Stott 1977–1978


Mayors during Birkenhead City Council[edit]

Name Term
1 Graham Stott 1978–1986
2 Ann Hartley 1986–1989



Highbury Shopping Centre[edit]

Highbury Shopping Centre is located in Birkenhead. It includes 600 carparks and 25 retailers, including a Countdown supermarket.[6]


Birkenhead is home to Birkenhead United who compete in the Lotto Sport Italia NRFL Division 1B.[citation needed]


Birkenhead School and Verran Primary School are coeducational contributing primary (years 1–6) schools with rolls of 405[7] and 199[8] respectively. Birkenhead School was founded in 1919 as an extension of Northcote School.[9] Verran Primary School was founded in 1964.[10] Rolls are as of March 2022.[11]

Notable people[edit]

  • 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.
  • Edward Le Roy was a businessman who ran a tent making business in Auckland. Le Roys Bush and Le Roy Tce are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Birkenhead West (125200), Birkenhead North (126500) and Birkenhead South (127400). 2018 Census place summary: Birkenhead West 2018 Census place summary: Birkenhead North 2018 Census place summary: Birkenhead South
  2. ^ "Birkenhead | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b Aitken, Alec; La Roche, John (2011). "Chelsea Sugar Works". In La Roche, John (ed.). Evolving Auckland: The City's Engineering Heritage. Wily Publications. pp. 264–268. ISBN 9781927167038.
  4. ^ McClure, p 55-6
  5. ^ a b "Timeline of Auckland mayors". Auckland Council Archives. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Highbury Shopping Centre – Visitor Info". Colliers International.
  7. ^ Education Counts: Birkenhead School
  8. ^ Education Counts: Verran Primary School
  9. ^ "School History". Birkenhead School. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008.
  10. ^ "History". Verran Primary School. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  11. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  • 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.

A view from Chelsea showing the Auckland Harbour Bridge and CBD. Birkenhead Wharf can be seen on the left, at the head of Birkenhead Point.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°48′27″S 174°43′23″E / 36.807490°S 174.723051°E / -36.807490; 174.723051