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Birkenhead is a suburb of North Shoremarker, one of several cities in the Aucklandmarker metropolitan area in northern New Zealandmarker. It is located on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbourmarker, four kilometres northwest of the Auckland city centre.

Birkenhead was a city until amalgamated into North Shore City; prior to that it was a borough. As a city and borough it included areas known as: Birkenhead Point, Highbury, Chatswood, Verrans Corner, Birkdale and Beach Haven.Since amalgamation took place, it is less clear whether "Birkenhead" includes Verrans Corner, Birkdale and Beach Haven.

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 Bridgemarker. It is surrounded by the suburbs of Northcotemarker and Highbury to the north and Chelsea and Chatswood to the west.


Birkenhead was described as "wild and bleak" by the New Zealand Herald in 1883, as it was isolated from the city of Aucklandmarker 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 Refinerymarker. 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 fossilied resin. Auckland families would cross the Waitemata Harbourmarker 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 Birkenheadmarker was noted for its elegant and expensive houses, its sea views and its charmingly laid out picturesque park copied by New York's Central Parkmarker.

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.

Famous people

  • 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.
  • Hayward family - Henry the father was an entrepreneur - his house stands on Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead Point;
  • Son Rudall 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


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.

See also

External links

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