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Auckland Domain
Auckland Museum And Bird Of Prey Kaitiaki.jpg
Sculpture Kaitiaki by Fred Graham in the Auckland Domain, with the Auckland Museum behind
Type Public park
Location Auckland, New Zealand
Area 185 acres (75 hectares)
Created 1843 (1843)
Operated by Auckland Council
Status Open year round
Auckland Domain Sky Tower
The Domain as seen from the Sky Tower, with approximate boundaries shown marked in red.

The Auckland Domain is a large park in Auckland, New Zealand. It is the oldest park in the city, and at 75 hectares is one of the largest. Located in the central suburb of Grafton, the park contains all of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of the Pukekawa volcano.

The park is home to one of Auckland's main tourist attractions, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which sits prominently on the crater rim (tuff ring). Several sports fields occupy the floor of the crater, circling to the south of the cone, while the rim opposite the Museum hosts the cricket pavilion and Auckland City Hospital. The Domain Wintergardens, with two beautiful glass houses, lie on the north side of the central scoria cone. The fernery has been constructed in an old quarry in part of the cone. The duck ponds lie in the northern sector of the explosion crater, which is breached to the north with a small overflow stream.

Pukekawa Volcano

View of the tropical hot house of the Wintergardens from the temperate house.
Wintergarden House In Auckland Domain
Inside one of the glasshouses.
Cherry grove2
Cherry grove in flower at the Auckland Domain.
Walking Path In The Auckland Domain
Walking path through the trees.

The Auckland Domain is located on the site of Pukekawa Volcano, one of the oldest volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field. Pukekawa consists of a large explosion crater surrounded by a tuff ring with a small scoria cone (Pukekaroro) in the centre of the crater. Its tuff ring, created by many explosive eruptions, is made of a mixture of volcanic ash, lapilli and fragmented sandstone country rock. Its eruption followed soon (in geological terms) after the neighbouring Grafton Volcano was created, destroying that volcano's eastern parts and burying the rest.

Originally, the crater floor was filled with a lava lake, the western half collapsed slightly and became a freshwater lake which later turned into a swamp and slowly filled up with alluvium and sediment, before being drained by Europeans for use as playing fields and parkland. These origins are still somewhat visible in that the Duck Ponds are freshwater-fed from the drainage of the crater.


Māori habitation

Pukekawa was identified by the Māori early on as one of the best sites in the isthmus area, with the north-facing side of the volcanic cone well-suited for growing kumara, while the hill itself was used for storage and as a site. The crater swamp meanwhile provided eels and water.

"Pukekawa" is a Māori-language word meaning 'hill of bitter memories', and likely refers to various hard-fought tribal battles between the Ngapuhi and the Ngati Whatua iwi. A sacred totara, commemorating the battles and their eventual settlement, was reputedly planted by princess Te Puea Herangi and still stands on the central volcanic cone.

In 1828 the central cone was the site of a peacemaking meeting between Northern and Waikato iwi.

European usage

After the Europeans bought the land from Ngāti Whātua, it was set aside as a public reserve in 1843 by Governor FitzRoy, probably working from an idea of William Hobson. It remains one of the city's greatest assets. It was initially called "Auckland Park", but was soon referred to on maps and documents as the "Auckland Domain". In the 1860s, the Domain springs were a source of water for the town of Auckland, while the original swamp was drained and turned into a cricket field.

The Auckland cricket team played all their home matches at the Domain until 1913, when they moved to Eden Park. The Auckland Acclimatisation Society had their gardens in the Domain in 1862; they became the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Parts of the layout still exist north of the band rotunda, including some greenhouses from the 1870s.

In the 1850s, then Governor-General Thomas Robert Gore-Brown eyed up the Domain as the setting for the new Government House. He was displeased with both the existing House's location in Waterloo Quadrant and also its style (and especially that it was of wood imitating stone construction). He envisaged a castle-style masonry residence similar to Government House in Sydney, which is also set in a large landscaped domain like Auckland's with an adjacent Botanical Garden and views of the harbour.

Plans were drawn up, but the project stalled. The administration at the time (headed by Premier Weld), refused to authorise funds for the project. Most problematic from a political point of view was the "alienation" of land from public usage. Also relocating the Capital from Auckland to Wellington was already seen as inevitable and retaining more than one Government House was not envisaged (although, as it happened, that is what occurred). Auckland Domain thus remained accessible to the public, as had been intended. The Governor General's residence was later relocated from Waterloo Quadrant to Mount Eden in the early 1960s.

A great many exotic specimen trees were donated and planted throughout the Domain by the late Victorians which have now matured into a splendid landscape park. They are now augmented by many New Zealand species. The wooden Cricket Pavilion designed by Mr Gorrie was built in 1898 as a replacement for an earlier structure that burnt down.

In 1910, the Domain witnessed the first ever rugby league test match in New Zealand when Great Britain defeated New Zealand in the 1910 Great Britain Lions tour.

In 1913, the Domain was the site of the Auckland Exhibition whose president was local businessman William Elliot. The financial return from this event resulted in many improvements to the Domain, chief among them the splendid wintergardens next to the duckponds. Unlike many of the other buildings, the teahouse was intended to remain after the Exhibition closed. Built in the form of an "ideal home", it is an example of an Arts and Crafts cottage. It stands between the Wintergardens and the duckponds.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Elliot donated several of the marble statues as well as money to complete the Wintergarden complex. He provided a further sum of money to construct the splendid art deco Domain entrance gates. Designed by the architectural firm Gummer and Ford, the gates are surmounted by a bronze statue of a male athlete by the sculptor Richard Gross. Auckland Domain is also the location of several other public artworks including Guy Nygan's "Millennium Tree".

Dominating Auckland Domain is the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Cenotaph. The large neo-Greek style museum building was opened in 1929 with the rear portion added in the 1960s, with a major renovation and extension in the mid-2000s adding a dome to the south end.

In 1940, to commemorate the founding of Auckland 100 years earlier, a new road was planned for the Domain. "Centennial Drive" was surveyed and trees were planted along its length, but it was never formed as a road; it is now a walkway between the duck ponds and Stanley Street.

An 18,500 cubic meter / 4 million gallon water reservoir was constructed in 1952, buried in the field at the high point to the immediate south of Auckland Museum. The reservoir is still in use maintaining the water supply into Auckland's CBD.

In 1970, a sensory garden for the blind was established at the eastern end of the Domain by the Tamaki Lions Club and Council.

In 2005, a monument for the Auckland Regiment was installed south of the central cone.


The Domain has also hosted many of New Zealand's largest outdoor events. Such use has a long history, from balloon ascents during the Edwardian period, to the 1953 Royal Tour of Elizabeth II, to papal visits, and various sports events.

Some of the largest annual events are "Christmas in the Park", which in the past has drawn more than 200,000 spectators, and other popular recurring events including the "Symphony under the Stars" and the "Teddybears Picnic".

The 2005 Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix was held using Domain Drive as the racecourse.

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