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Birkenhead, New Zealand facts for kids

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Chelsea Sugar Refinery.JPG
The sugar refinery, a local landmark.
Location of Birkenhead in Auckland.
Basic information
Local authority Auckland Council
Electoral ward North Shore
Date established 1883 (Approx.)
Ferry terminal(s) Birkenhead Ferry Terminal
North Northcote
Northeast Northcote
East Northcote
Southeast (Waitemata Harbour)
South (Waitemata Harbour)
Southwest (Waitemata Harbour)
West Chatswood
Northwest Highbury

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 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. In November 2010, the suburb was included into the North Shore ward, one of the thirteen administrative divisions of the new Auckland city, under authority of the Auckland Council. Under the new Auckland Council, Birkenhead is part of the Kaipatiki Local Board Area.

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. It is surrounded by the suburbs of Northcote 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 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 fossilied 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.

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.
  • 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.
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