Queens Wharf

Quay Street, AUCKLAND

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Queens Wharf was constructed in 1907-13 as the centrepiece of a redevelopment by the Auckland Harbour Board (AHB) to improve Auckland’s port facilities. At the forefront of innovative technology, it was among the earliest concrete wharves in New Zealand and contributed strongly to the development of Auckland’s economy. Designed primarily for loading and unloading large overseas vessels, the wharf has also been an important place of embarkation and arrival for passengers and is associated with significant events in New Zealand’s history including the 1913 Watersider’s strike, the influenza pandemic of 1918 and the country’s involvement in two World Wars. It is now the best-preserved of the early twentieth-century finger wharves along the Auckland waterfront, visibly retaining structures and features - including a notable double-storey shed - linked with its early use. The wharf was erected in Commercial Bay, which was used by Maori for food gathering and other purposes before European arrival. Following the foundation of colonial Auckland in 1840, reclamation of the bay successively occurred. By the early 1860s, a large timber wharf had been erected to service the town’s growing commercial centre. A timber wharf survived until the early 1900s, when the inadequate nature of Auckland’s harbour facilities caused the AHB to instigate improvements. In 1903, the AHB employed W.H. Hamer, who was previously Resident Engineer at the Royal Albert Docks in London. Hamer produced a plan for the comprehensive improvement of Auckland’s waterfront incorporating a series of finger wharves. The Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia, was contracted to erect the first of these in reinforced concrete at the Railway (later Kings) Wharf, and by early 1907 had begun building the new Queens Wharf. The company is reported to have been the first to use the Hennebique method of concrete construction in New Zealand, and simultaneously constructed Auckland’s Grafton Bridge (1907-10) which had the world’s largest single reinforced concrete span when built. From 1909 work at Queens Wharf was carried out by the AHB evidently under Hamer’s supervision, and was completed in 1913. Hamer’s design for the wharf encompassed a central roadway; flanking sheds for the storage of cargo; and railway lines on the opposite side of the sheds beside each quayside. The tracks were connected to the North Island Main Trunk Line via the Auckland Goods Station, enabling direct access between the wharf and Auckland’s extensive rural hinterland. Cargo sheds were of steel-frame construction with corrugated iron cladding, and were initially envisaged to all be double-storey to accommodate transit facilities on the ground floor and warehousing upstairs. The first of these (Shed ‘G’, later known as Shed 15, then Shed 10) was erected on the east side of the wharf in 1910. Single-storey steel-framed structures were built on the west side, including Shed ‘J’ (later known as Shed 18, then Shed 11) in 1914. A Police and Customs Building was constructed near the south end of the wharf in 1911-12. Before the wharf was fully finished it was used for berthing the HMS New Zealand - a gift from the New Zealand government to the Royal Navy - which was visited by some 94,000 Aucklanders. Towards the end of 1913, the wharf was occupied and barricaded by special constables during the Waterfront strike. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 resulted in Auckland becoming the first point of call in New Zealand for ships from Europe and the eastern USA, leading to a further growth in activity. By 1920, Auckland had become the busiest port in New Zealand. Throughout this period and during the following decades, the wharf remained a central part of the waterfront, housing the Wharf Police and Customs Offices, as well as providing regular ferry services to the North Shore from berths in its southwest corner. It was a venue for ceremonial events, including the departure of troops for the First World War (1914-18), and British royal visits. In 1918, it was linked with controversy over the introduction of the influenza pandemic to New Zealand, which ultimately claimed over 8,000 lives and has been regarded as the country’s worst public health disaster. Many believed that the RMS Niagara was responsible for introducing the virus after it discharged passengers at Queens Wharf without quarantine, although this is no longer considered to be the case. During the Second World War (1939-45) the wharf operated at full capacity to assist the allied war effort, and was part of the infrastructure that supported the military campaign in the Pacific. At this time, the port was considered to be of ‘vital national importance.’ Facilities were later affected by the 1951 Waterfront Workers Strike, one of New Zealand’s longest and most costly industrial disputes. Some changes to the wharf occurred in 1951, but it was with the advent of containerised transport that the biggest alterations occurred. The former Police and Customs building was demolished. Some of the sheds were destroyed or removed. In 2004, a new ferry terminal was built in the southwest part of the wharf, incorporating an early ferry shelter. In 2009, the main part of the wharf was purchased by the government and the Auckland Regional Council. Following a public debate about the fate of two remaining sheds, one (Shed ‘J’, or Shed 11) was dismantled and removed in November 2010, and the other (Shed ‘G’, or Shed 10) retained for ongoing use. Queens Wharf has historical significance for its close connections with the development of Auckland’s overseas trade during the twentieth century and with organisations and events such as the AHB, the 1913 and 1951 Watersiders strikes, two World Wars and notable ceremonial visits. The wharf has social significance for its central role on the Auckland waterfront; for its function as a major place of arrival to, and departure from New Zealand; and as a place of formal welcome and farewell. It is significant for the perceived consequences of these functions, including during the influenza pandemic of 1918. The place has particularly high technological significance for its connections with early reinforced concrete construction, and may be an early surviving Australasian example of a reinforced concrete wharf. The place has important connections with the pioneering Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia and its chief engineer R.F. Moore.

Queens Wharf, Auckland. The Cloud building with the Ferry Building in the background. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Bernard Spragg. NZ | 12/06/2012 | Public Domain
Queens Wharf, Auckland. CC BY-ND 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Jane Nearing | 10/01/2013 | Jane Nearing
Queens Wharf, Auckland. Shed 10. CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Simon_sees | 19/11/2019 | Simon_sees
Queens Wharf, Auckland. Shed 10 interior. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Georgia Schofield | 04/05/2016 | TedxAuckland



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

12th December 2010

Date of Effect

12th December 2010

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Lot 37 DP 131568, North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as the Queens Wharf thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Pt Lot 37 DP 131568, North Auckland Land District

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