William Hobson Founder of Auckland Anniversary Day

One of the last actions of William Hobson was, to declare an Auckland Anniversary Day.

Aerial view of Bay of Islands

The day is celebrated on the Monday closest to the 29th January and symbolizes the anniversary of Hobson’s arrival in the Bay of Islands in 1840.

What Role Played W. Hobson in the early days of New Zealand?


A British colonial administrator George Eden, the first Earl of Auckland, appointed Hobson in 1834 as commander of the frigate ‘HMS Rattlesnake’ with the destination to the East Indies. Two years later Hobson received orders to head for Australia, where he surveyed the area north of Port Philipp and founded Williamstown. He took a liking to Australia, and refused a higher ranked and better paid job to run for governorship in New South Wales. Under the ruling Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, Hobson became appointed Lieutenant Governor.

In his new role he followed a request for help, by James Busby an English Resident in New Zealand and arrived in May 1837 in the Bay of Islands. There he assisted to ease tensions between settlers and the Maori people. After the situation calmed he returned to England to report.

With detailed instructions about the sovereignty of New Zealand set out by the British government, Hobson arrived on the 29th January 1840 back in the Bay of Islands. His task was to intervene in New Zealand and acquire land "by fair and equal contracts" and to resell it later to settlers. Gained profits would then be used for subsequent operations. As a result he began to draft with the help of his secretary James Freeman and Busby the 'Treaty of Waitangi'. The Treaty was signed by Maori tribes of Northland on 6th February in 1840, since 1974 this date is celebrated as 'Waitangi Day'.

For more signatures on the Treaty and surveying a location suitable for the capital of New Zealand Hobson travelled to the Waitemata Harbour, while a Deputy Surveyor-General visited other areas to get more signatures. On his mission William Hobson suffered a stroke at the beginning of March and was taken back to the Bay of Islands for recovery. So he did. Resuming work Hobson declared British sovereignty over all of New Zealand in May 1840 responding to settlers who lay out a new town in Port Nicholson, later Wellington, under the flag of an independent New Zealand. Willoughby Shortland arrived in Port Nicholson with supporting soldiers to split up the council of settlers. The fact that there were still signatures missing on the 'Treaty' did not change that. In November 1840 New Zealand became a separate British Crown colony of which William Hobson was sworn in the first Governor and Commander in Chief on the 3rd May 1841.

Plans to make Port Nicholson capital were dismissed in favour for Hobson’s plan. The new capital was built at the Waitemata Harbour and named after the Earl of Auckland who appointed Hobson commander of the ‘HMS Rattlesnake’ back in 1834. Auckland Anniversary Day was announced shortly before William Hobson died aged 49 on the 10th September 1842, sixteen days before his 50 birthday.

Irish born, Hobson started his career at the Royal Navy at the age of 10. He left his wife Eliza with four daughters and one son and is buried in Auckland, Grafton cemetery on Symonds Street.

Saturday, the 29th instant, being the Second Anniversary of the establishment of the Colony, His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to direct that day to be held a General Holiday, on which occasion the Public Offices will be closed.

--A notice posted in the New Zealand Government Gazette of 26 January, 1842 (Volume 2, 4th Edition)--

Further Reading:

Find here a more detailed biography about W. Hobson www.teara.govt.nz

How is Auckland Anniversary Day celebrated?

It is summer, some students are still on summer holidays and others are happy for their first break after the beginning of the New Year. Therefore many are deserting the city to go on a New Zealand adventure travel for the long weekend with their family.

All those that stayed in town an exciting program takes place around the Auckland harbour.

The Auckland Anniversary weekend is in January and Auckland celebrates with:

  • Auckland Seafood Festival
  • Auckland Busker Festival
  • One Day Regatta

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