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Aotea Square's Māori gate during a market Saturday. The gate and other artworks are currently in storage during the redevelopment of the square.

Aotea Square is a large paved public area in the Auckland CBD, of Auckland, New Zealand. Officially opened in 1979 by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson next to Queen Street, it is used for open-air concerts and gatherings, and markets and political rallies. It is currently undergoing major redevelopment (and repairs to a car park underneath it) from November 2008 to 2010, which are to improve it for use by crowds of up to 20,000 people.[1]

Its name is derived from Motu Aotea, the Māori name for Great Barrier Island, which is the largest offshore island of New Zealand, approximately 90 km from downtown Auckland.





The square was created in 1979, with a large part of it being the former end of Grey's Avenue, which used to connect directly to Queen Street - a large underground carpark with 930 spaces had been erected underneath in 1975.[2]

In 2000 a competition for a redesign was held, but in 2004, before the winning design by Ted Smythe and Associates (including Rod Barnett and Dr Dushko Bogunovich) could be built, damage to the car park roof was discovered, which stopped the project. While the roof was temporarily stabilised and plans for its repair made, a consultation process initiated by mayor Dick Hubbard called 'Outside the Square' resulted in a new proposal. This proposal was abandoned after it was estimated to cost up to $600 million. After this the old design was revised several times (including some feedback from public consultation in August 2008) and was adopted in 2008.

Construction started in November 2008 and is to run to 2010, during which there will be no events in the square. The project is to cost NZ$80 million, around $45 million for the car park repair, $25 million for the upgrade, and $10 million for works on the Aotea Centre facade.[3] A cost saving of $15 million was identified during the process due to a modified construction process for the car park roof, which allowed the project to dispense with building a temporary car park.[4]

Significant events

Aotea Square is often utilised for public events, including fairs, protest rallies, music festivals, rock concerts and the annual seeing-in of the New Year. It hosts a regular arts & crafts market on Fridays and Saturdays.

Aotea Square was site of a major civil disturbance on December 7, 1984, during a free end-of-academic year rock concert given by bands including Herbs and DD Smash. A power cut interrupted the concert for a time, and some of the concert-goers began throwing bottles at police in attendance, who called up additional forces in riot gear but at first did not intervene further.[5]

Dave Dobbyn, DD Smash’s lead singer, was later accused of having incited a riot by declaring "I wish those riot squad guys would stop wanking and put their little batons away", followed by an announcement by Triple M, the radio station promoting the concert, that the performance would be stopped on the request of the police. This caused a riot amongst parts of the audience, who moved into Queen Street, smashing shop windows and overturning cars, causing over NZ$ 1 million in reported damage.[5]

Others present noted that the rioting was influenced by a number of factors, including the large number of intoxicated audience members, youth relief about the end of the Muldoon era, and a confrontational attitude by the police, who allegedly blocked the exits from the concert area, giving the crowd no obvious way to disperse.[6]


The Edwardian Auckland Town Hall is at the Queen Street entrance to the square. It has a main concert chamber with excellent acoustics, and was extensively restored and upgraded in 1994.

To the south of the square are the Administration block of the Auckland City Council and the entry to Myers Park.

On the western side of the square is Auckland's main conference and theatre venue, the Aotea Centre. The foyer contains art works by many New Zealand artists including a full length portrait in bronze of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa by Terry Stringer.

To the north of the square is a cinema/theatre complex including the 1929 Civic Theatre, in the atmospheric theatre style. The ceiling within the main chamber is illuminated with lights placed to correspond with the constellations of the southern night sky.

Aotea Square was originally the location of a swamp fed and drained by the Waihorotiu Stream. The stream was turned into an open sewer canal and eventually bricked over and the swampy area drained. A three-story underground parking garage accessible from Mayoral Drive and Greys Avenue was constructed in the 1970s.

Public art

A number of art works are in Aotea Square:

  • At the Queen Street entrance is an arch called 'Waharoa' (Gateway in Māori), formed in wood and copper by Selwyn Muru, a Māori sculptor. This is an expressionist version of a traditional Māori entry gate. It features symbols like birds, fish and the crescent moon and stars but also elements like the nuclear disarmament symbol, reflecting the modern influences on New Zealand art.[7]
  • Near the Town Hall is a bronze figure of a Māori warrior by Lyndon Smith, commissioned in the 1960s for the lobby of the Auckland Saving Bank's new building on Queen Street. In 1997 the ASB presented it to the City of Auckland.
  • In the centre of the square is a bronze fountain by New Zealand sculptor Terry Stringer. This angular "mountain" was commissioned in 1979 to form the centre piece for the new square, and its form echoes the roofline of the contemporary Aotea Centre. Recent (mid 2009) media controversy has centred around the speculation that Council prefers to permanently remove the fountain, despite having assured its sculptor that it will return after the maintenance work on the car park roof.[8]
  • In front of the Administration building is a 19th century bronze statue of George Eden, Lord Auckland, Governor of India, after whom the Auckland is named. This statue was originally erected in Calcutta and was purchased from the government of India by Auckland City Council in the early 1960s.

See also


Further reading

  • Decently And In Order, The Centennial History of the Auckland City Council - Bush, G.W.A., Collins 1971.
  • Auckland City Heritage Walks - Yoffe, Susan & Mace, Tania, 2005

External links

  • Aotea Square (executive summary of a 2005 study of possible future changes, including a covered street under the square, that was later abandoned due to cost reasons)

Coordinates: 36°51′08″S 174°45′48″E / 36.852128°S 174.763330°E / -36.852128; 174.763330


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