The Aotea Centre, was was completed in November 1989 after a five year construction period, for the considerable sum of NZ$ 128.5 million. The idea for the Centre was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s, New Zealand’s most famous opera singer. In 1984, she declared that she would not sing in New Zealand until an opera house of international stature had been constructed. She carried out her threat by staying away from New Zealand until the arts center had been completed, so that her return after the opening of the Aotea Centre also marked a triumphant reunion with her country.
Perhaps even more important to tourists is the Auckland Visitor Centre, located in Aotea Square. Its office is wellstocked with detailed information for those visiting New Zealand. The Gateway, a Maori archway made of wood by the artist Selwyn Muru, is close by, and Auckland’s Town Hall, built of Oamaru limestone, towers in the background. Queen Street turns slightly uphill, meeting Karangahape Road and Grafton Bridge about 2000 ft (600 m) further.
Auckland has the reputation of being the largest city in Polynesia, and this is justified by Karangahape Road. Amid exotic food shops and colorful stores, the cacophony of island languages makes you feel as if you were on Apia, Nukualofa or Suva. Because of the increasing number of immigrants coming into New Zealand from the Polynesian Islands, there has been mounting ethnic conflict among the islanders, sometimes involving violence. Many Polynesian immigrants are unemployed and depend on the state for social security.
The best times to see the flea market on Newbury Street (off East Tamaki Rd.) is on Thursdays with longer business hours and Saturdays (6 am-noon).
The Sky Tower, which rises well over 1000 ft over the city, was completed in 1997 and is the country’s tallest building. Besides a hotel with conference rooms, it harbors several lookout platforms, a revolving restaurant, a theater with 700 seats and the gigantic Harrah’s Casino.