Painting of Mechanics Bay in 1899, by Charles Blomfield.
|Local authority||Auckland City|
|West||Auckland city centre|
Mechanics Bay is the name of a former bay (now filled in) on the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland City, New Zealand. It is also the name used to describe the area of the former bay that is now mainly occupied by commercial and port facilities. Sometimes the bay formed between Tamaki Drive and the western reclamation edge of Fergusson container terminal is also referred to as Mechanics Bay.
Along the harbour shore between Point Britomart and St Stephen's Point in Parnell were four bays; Official Bay, Mechanics Bay, St Georges Bay & Judges Bay (some of these bays have now disappeared due to land reclamation and the quarrying of the bordering headlands). Closest to Point Britomart was "Official Bay" so-called because most of the Government Officials during the 1840s chose to live there.
Almost continuous with Official Bay was Mechanics Bay (so-called because this was where the labour force that the government had brought with it to construct the new Capital were housed). Mechanics Bay contained the mouth of the stream issuing from the Springs in the Domain to the south. The Bay had a broad, flat beach where Māori had long been in the habit of beaching their waka (canoes).
Next to Mechanics Bay was St Georges Bay and then "Judges Bay" so-called because three of the magistrates of the early colony built their houses there. Next to Judges Bay is St Stephen's point, where a small chapel was built.
As early as the 1860s this shore front began to be modified by the European settlers. In particular it was in order to get the railway tracks around to the bottom of Queen Street that Point Britomart was quarried away and Official Bay & Mechanics Bay filled in. Initially the railway tracks came through the gully that lay between the Auckland Domain and the suburb of Parnell, but later when a second route was formed further to the east through Meadowbank the shoreline between Mechanics Bay and Hobson Bay was also modified. This was when St Georges Bay ceased to exist and became the shunting yard for the railway station and Judges Bay was separated from the Harbour by a railway embankment.
The major thoroughfare of Mechanics Bay is Beach Road, so-called because it once ran around the beach front of the now reclaimed Mechanics Bay. Here is located the former main Auckland railway station, an impressive brick 1930s structure, designed by Gummer and Ford. Formerly located at the bottom of Queen Street the railway station was relocated here to be the centrepiece for the new downtown business area of Auckland. The plan was not a success and the Station has recently been decommissioned and the railway terminal reinstated back in its original location at the bottom of Queen Street. This "new" station is the Britomart Transport Centre, and is proving a great success. (Note: The station moved each time, not the building.)
The first aeroplanes connecting New Zealand with the rest of the world in the 1930s were Flying Boats. International flights from Britain by Imperial Airways via India, Singapore and Australia connected with TEAL for the Sydney to Auckland leg. Flights by Pan American from America via Hawaii also landed at Auckland. The Short Solent or Boeing flying boats landed in Mechanics Bay, which was the centre of international aviation for New Zealand until the 1950s. Even after the formation of Auckland International Airport at Mangere in the 1960s, Mechanics Bay was still used by flying boats to the Pacific Islands, e.g. for the Coral Route to Fiji.
From 1962 to 1989, Mechanics Bay was home to first Tourist Air Travel, then Mount Cook Airline then Sea Bee Air operating a fleet of Grumman Goose, Grumman Widgeon and Grumman Turbo Goose amphibian aircraft for regular scheduled passenger and freight services to the islands of the Hauraki Gulf (particularly Great Barrier and Waiheke Islands) and operated charter flights to other areas such as the Bay of Islands, Manukau & Kaipara Harbours and elsewhere around the country and to Pacific islands. Operating from what is now the Marine Rescue Centre, they were located near Compass Dolphin (since destroyed in a fierce storm in the early 1990s).
Mechanics Bay also has a heliport, which is the base for a number of sightseeing and commercial flight companies, as well as the base for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. It is located next to the Auckland Marine Rescue Centre at the eastern end of the Ports of Auckland container terminal. In May 2013 a helicopter crashed in the water off Mechanics Bay, both the pilot and passenger were quickly rescued from the water unharmed by a nearby navy boat.
At its eastern end where Beach Road turns into Parnell Rise is a major intersection, over which the railway is carried on a metal viaduct. The road to the north is The Strand which follows the shore line of the reclaimed St Georges Bay. The road to the south is Stanley Street, which turns into Grafton Road as it ascends the hill towards the hospital and Auckland Domain. Stanley Street is named for Mrs Stanley, who lived in the area during the 1850s and ran a well known and apparently well regarded girls school.
On the corner of Stanley Street and Parnell Rise is the "Strand Hotel". This building is almost overpowered by the busy intersection and by the railway viaduct passing close to it. When the "Strand Hotel" was built in the 1840s as the "Swan Hotel" it stood directly on the quayside as a waterfront pub. Just opposite it on the other corner of Stanley Street stood the Native Hostel.
Long before the Europeans arrived, Māori had beached their wakas on the broad flat beach just here and right from the founding of Auckland in 1840 into the late 20th century this portion of land was reserved for their use. The 19th century hostel buildings only disappeared in the 1970s, when they were replaced by a depot for the New Zealand Post Office.
Further up Stanley street and backing onto the Auckland Domain are two sports grounds; Carlaw Park, an important venue for Tennis in Auckland and the Auckland Bowling Club, founded in the 1861 and the oldest in the southern hemisphere.
- Sikorski S-40 at Mechanics Bay, 1937
- Mechanics Bay in 1880s
- Mechanics Bay from Supreme Court, 1880s
- Phillip Treweek's Widgeon page with history of TAT/MCA/SBA Mechanics Bay Widgeons
- Phillip Treweek's Goose page with ZK DFC and history of Sea Bee Air Goose Aircraft
- Sea Bee Air Goose at Mechanics Bay
- ZK DFC
- ZK-ERX Sea Bee Air 1982-1984
- Photographs of Mechanics Bay held in Auckland Libraries' heritage collections.
- Decently And In Order, The Centennial History of the Auckland City Council. G.W.A Bush. Collins 1971.
- Auckland Through A Victorian Lens. William Main. Millwood Press 1977.
- Auckland's Original Shoreline. Dr Nerida Campbell. Heart of the City 2005.
- The Lively Capital, Auckland 1840-1865. Una Platts. Avon Fine Prints Limited New Zealand 1971.