Waitakere City is New Zealand's fifth largest city, with an annual growth of about 2%. It is part of the Auckland region, and is incorporated in the Auckland metropolitan area. Most residents live near the city's eastern borders with the Waitemata Harbour and neighbouring Auckland City. The forest-covered Waitakere Ranges dominate the city's western skyline, rising from the rugged surf beaches of the Tasman Sea to an altitude of over 400 metres.
The name came originally from a Māori chief and was applied to a village near the northern boundary of the current city and later to the county that covered much of the current city.
Waitakere City was formed by the amalgamation of Waitemata City with the boroughs of Henderson, New Lynn, and Glen Eden in 1989's nationwide re-organisation of local government. The elected Council consists of Mayor Bob Harvey and 14 councillors representing the four wards. Each ward also has an elected community board that considers local issues. The ward boundaries are currently under review.
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Geography of the four wards
This urban ward contains the old Henderson borough as well as the suburbs of Glendene, Te Atatu South, and Te Atatu Peninsula (formerly Te Atatu North). There are 40,086 residents (2001). It is located immediately to the west of Auckland city, some 10 kilometres from the city centre, along the western shores of the Waitemata Harbour and its southwestern arm, the Whau River.
Although this area is principally urban, it also has some farms and lifestyle blocks in the north and west. The ward contains the suburbs of Whenuapai, Hobsonville, West Harbour, Massey, Ranui, and Henderson North. It has a population of 51,369 (2001 census). It is located to the north of the Henderson Ward, along the Waitemata's northwestern shore, and includes one of New Zealand's largest concentrations of former military bases, with former large army and air force stations within the ward.
New Lynn Ward
Centered on the old boroughs of New Lynn and Glen Eden, it also contains the suburbs of Kelston, Green Bay, Titirangi, Kaurilands, Waima, and Woodlands Park. The ward has a population of 49,845 (2001). New Lynn Ward is to the south of Henderson Ward, and extends to the shore of the Manukau Harbour at its southern end. New Lynn itself is 10 kilometres southwest of Auckland city centre.
This ward is by far the largest in area as it encompasses the sparsely populated Waitakere Ranges, as well as some of the urban fringes as the city expands westward into former orchards and farms. The population 27,450 (2001) is the smallest of the wards, but it is also the fastest-growing. It encompasses the suburbs, villages and localities of Swanson, Henderson Valley, Sunnyvale, Oratia, Waiatarua, Laingholm, Parau, Cornwallis, Huia, Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Anawhata, Bethells / Te Henga, and Waitakere township. Many of these have volunteer fire brigades to protect their communities from the summer bush fires. This ward lies to the west of the three other wards, and extends to the north as well. Its northern end, around Muriwai, is also the furthest part of Waitakere from Auckland city centre, lying some 30 kilometres to the northwest of it.
The walking tracks and sights of the Waitakere Ranges attract thousands from the Auckland region in suitable weather, as do the black-sand surf beaches of Piha, Karekare and Bethells. These beaches are notoriously dangerous for surfers and swimmers, however, and great care needs to be taken to avoid their treacherous rips.