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Auckland Ferry Building and Tees


Auckland ferry terminal Auckland ferry terminal Auckland ferry terminal Auckland ferry terminal

Auckland Ferry Building and Tees (1912)

Steam transport opens up the suburbs

‘We see these lucky people waiting at the lights at the foot of Queen Street…. There is a vague aroma of salt and diesel oil about them as they stand with their feet slightly apart, their heads up and a faraway look (common to explorers and sailors) in their eyes.’ David Balderston had his beloved wooden double-ended ferries in mind when he waxed lyrical about Auckland’s luckiest commuters, but the good news is that these ferry tees and the Ferry Building are humming as people rediscover the joy of entering the city through its traditional front door.

From the 1880s enterprising operators began offering ‘a smell of the briny for 6d’. The Ferry Building emerged as the jewel in the crown of Auckland Harbour Board engineer W.H. Hamer’s massive 1904 redevelopment plan for the then ramshackle port. Harbour board engineers were more important than any architect then, and Hamer’s plan for a new Queen Street wharf included ferry tees (completed in 1907) and this brick and Pyrmont stone office block. Alexander Wiseman’s English baroque ‘handsome pile’, as it was called, took longer to build than planned, since people objected to new buildings blocking harbour views even then, but since 1912 the Ferry Building has housed a variety of mainly shipping industry tenants.

Like the ferries themselves, the building ran into lean times after the harbour bridge opened in 1959, but between 1985 and 1988 it underwent a major refurbishment that added a modern version of the fifth storey originally planned. Passengers still pass through its entrances and shipping companies still chase cargo from its upper storeys. With the new Britomart rail terminal and a major bus interchange area just across the road, the more recently redesigned ferry tees seem destined to get busier than ever.

Further information

This site is item number 81 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • David Johnston, The Auckland Ferry Building, Auckland Maritime Museum, Auckland, 1988

Text: Gavin McLean, 2013

Main image: Andy Davidson (Flickr)

Other contemporary image: Alexander Klink(Wikimedia)

Historic images:

Alexander Turnbull Library
References: 1/1-008072-G (photographed by James McAllister), WA-35371-F and WA-78933-F (both photographed by Whites Aviation)
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of their images.

How to cite this page

Auckland Ferry Building and Tees, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated