High-scoring Auckland City FC was favourite to win the final of the 2017/2018 ISPS Handa Premiership on April the 1st 2018, having won the minor Premiership in March. But opposing Team Wellington FC was the only club they had failed to beat during the league’s regular season. Furthermore, reigning champions Team Wellington had won the final at the past two attempts, beating Auckland City FC both times in the process. The omens were there for the underdogs to triumph, and the third consecutive meeting of these two Football clubs in the competition’s final serves nicely as an introduction to the very different characters of Auckland and Wellington.
The conventional Kiwi impressions of Auckland and Wellington couldn’t be more different. Auckland, the capital until 1865, is the city with both the largest population and largest economy, making it a suitable host for New Zealand’s highest-profile domestic Football match. Aucklanders, commonly referred to by the acronym JAFA (“Just Another Fucking Aucklander”), are grossly unpopular across the rest of New Zealand. Their general stereotype is one of self-importance, coldness and apathy. Auckland is very typical of a large international Western city, but being so young, it conspicuously lacks any real identity of its own. The city lamentably does not offer much culture, instead existing as New Zealand’s commercial and financial hub.
Wellington meanwhile is popularly known as the country’s “Culture City”. Famed for its nightlife, art scene, craft beer and musea, the capital’s identity is a stark contrast to that of Auckland. Wellingtonians are considered friendlier and more introspective than their Auckland counterparts. Conscious of how their actions may affect others, the courtesy and “community-spirit” of Wellingtonians sets them apart. While Auckland is geographically very spread out and serviced by poor public transport, Wellington is very walkable, easy to navigate but confined by surrounding steep hills and coastline.
While these general characteristics will obviously not apply to all Aucklanders and Wellingtonians alike, when you look at the development of each city in the past 150 years, it is easy to understand how these respective cultures and characters could have evolved.
Wellington’s culture is product of its restrictive surrounding terrain and its extensive planned migration in the 1840s. While financial gain and increased church influence were unquestionably motives for early settlers to New Zealand, certain British institutions and politicians were keen to avoid a repeat of the penal colony-type settlement of Australia and the uncontrolled and often unpredictable migrations to the USA and Canada. Edward Gibbons Wakefield (associate of the New Zealand Company and later member of the Wellington Provincial Council and the House of Representatives) envisaged a more structured approach to settlement in which entire farming communities would move together from a Britain that was suffering high unemployment in the 1830s and 40s to a promising New Zealand.
Wellington was one of the Kiwi cities that saw a more successful implementation of this “Wakefieldian” migration. Wellington was from the very beginning a settlement based on kinship and strong community. A cruel climate, intractable Maoris and destructive earthquakes in 1848 and 1855 were immediate challenges that probably only served to harden the settlers’ will and instinct to care for each other. Subsequent 20th century population growth did not change the way in which Wellingtonians saw themselves and their community.
Auckland’s flat surroundings were ideal locations for the Kauri Gum extraction industry, and its accessibility from Port Jackson in Sydney and far calmer waters than those of central and southern New Zealand made it an ideal location for a major port. These were the first steps in Auckland’s development as a major economic hub. As worldwide demand for New Zealand’s products grew, so did Auckland’s economy and population. Complimentary industries prospered; logging, shipbuilding and repair, light manufacturing and construction, finance and insurance. Soon Auckland had become New Zealand’s most advanced port; an unrivaled infrastructure that would further benefit from the boom in the country’s agricultural industries in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
It is important to note that labour market demands have historically dictated both migration to Auckland and the city’s haphazard growth, an experience that is very much at odds to the Wakefieldian planned migration of Wellington. As such, it can be argued that Auckland’s early inhabitants expected little care and attention from each other, as few migrants to the city knew each other the same way in which early Wellingtonians did. The apathy that 19th century Aucklanders had toward each other quickly became internalised in the city’s culture and survives to this day.
The differing geography of our two subject settlements has also played a role in the development of their respective cultures.
Unlike Wellington, Auckland does not lie between a bowl of impenetrable mountains and coastline. Without any opposing geographical barrier, the greater metropolitan area of Auckland has become enormous. Each wave of migration obligated the construction of a new suburb on the surrounding flat grasslands to accommodate newcomers. Wellingtonians have always been conscious of being in each other’s way, but Aucklanders have never been pressured by geography to interact with their city-neighbours; they can get by in their suburbs without ever having to interact with those in another suburb. Citizens that do not interact do not share ideas and customs and over time do not establish a “togetherness”. Aucklanders have been able to avoid each other in a way that Wellingtonians have not. In contrast to Wellington, Auckland has failed to provide a city-wide mindset and identity for individuals that from the beginning did not seem themselves part of a larger community.
The alternative births of both Auckland City FC and Team Wellington FC are proof of this theory. Team Wellington is the brainchild of various Central league Wellingtonian semi-professional Football clubs, who wanted to create a team that could represent their city in the ISPS Handa Premiership. Traditional rivals in regional competition had no qualms about coming together to create a Football club to serve their city-wide community. Team Wellington FC exists for all Wellingtonians. This is not what happened in Auckland. Auckland City FC is the sister club of Central United FC, the longstanding club of Auckland’s Dalmatian community. Auckland has just as many semi-professional clubs in its regional leagues, but the lack of a strong Aucklander identity is self-evident in the fact that these clubs did not collaborate in the same way that those of Wellington did.
In the final, Auckland City had the home and the crowd advantage. Played at the QBE Stadium in Albany, located on Auckland’s North Shore, the majority of fans were most definitely hoping to see a victory for the Navy Blues. The match itself was tight, goalless at half time. But with around 10 minutes remaining, Auckland City FC pulled it out of the bag. The Navy Blues cemented their places in the history books by becoming the only club to hold 7 New Zealand Football Championship titles.