New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Urban Transformations - The Millennium Series Part Three

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New Zealand cities began with the first organised European settlement in 1840 and have been in a state of constant change ever since. 

Issue information

All of New Zealand's cities had a blueprint for their evolution, though in virtually every case the reality and the planning never quite matched. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the century, the main centres at least – Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington - included substantial commercial and financial buildings, factories and, from around 1900 - department stores.

The late-Victorian classical/Gothic look of around 1900 would survive largely intact until the 1960s, when economic growth and modernist architecture prompted the erection of much larger office buildings. Meanwhile, increased interest in, and awareness, of public health and town planning issues saw many older houses in city centres demolished and replaced with new ferro-concrete and steel buildings.

In the mid-1980s, another period of economic growth, prompted by financial deregulation, resulted in huge mirror glassed 'corporate' towers rising up to dominate parts of the skyline. That trend was checked by the stock market crash of 1987, only to be replaced over this last decade by another - the emergence of inner city apartments.

The six stamps in this issue featured an image from the late 19th or early 20th century and a photograph of approximately the same location today. Nearly 160 years after cityscapes began in New Zealand, change is very much the only constant.


New Zealand Post gives special acknowledgements to the following for their assistance and use of historical images in this stamp issue.

  • Alexander Turnbull Library
  • Hocken Library
  • Canterbury Museum.

Product Listing for Urban Transformation - The Millennium Series Part Three

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Wellington' gummed stamps.

The city of Wellington was meant to be built at Petone but was moved to Lambton Harbour in 1840 because the original site was too swampy. A huge reclamation programme to obtain flat land followed. Economic expansion and reinforced concrete construction saw the central business district transformed from the 1920's on. Recent changes have included the new Civic Square and the re-development of the waterfront, including the erection of the imposing Museum of New Zealand.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Auckland' gummed stamp.

Governor Hobson chose the fertile volcanic landscape of the Tāmaki isthmus as the site for his capital, Auckland, in 1840. Some 50 years later, the 'dingy wooden structures' lining Queen Street had been replaced by substantial brick and stone structures with neo-classical or Gothic facades. Large department stores and entertainment venues were added. Residential suburbs sprawled across the isthmus, and Auckland de-centralised. More recently, the trend to apartment living has seen the inner city undergo something of a resurgence.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Christchurch' gummed stamp.

Christchurch's site was chosen for its closeness to Lyttelton and the fertile land of the Canterbury Plains. By the turn of the century, solid two and three-storey buildings were very much part of the city's business centre. Meanwhile, housing within the four founding avenues began to expand out from the 1880's. After the Second World War, there was further expansion to both the north-west and the east, while inner city redevelopment focused on apartments.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Westport' gummed stamp.

Gold rushes on the West Coast turned a small settlement at the mouth of the Buller River into New Zealand's fifth largest export port by 1867. Later, the development of large-scale mining to the north saw Westport become the country's major coal port. However, the town has continued to suffer at the hands of nature, with fire and earthquakes taking substantial tolls. Today, it is a port of call for tourists and retains a bustling frontier feel.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Tauranga' gummed stamp.

The battle of Gate Pā in 1864 resulted in military settlement nearby, close to the Anglican mission station at Te Papa. By 1878, a township had been established on the beachfront. But by 1901, Tauranga's population was less than 1,000. By the 1930's, it had only reached 3,000. However, the decision in 1950 to develop overseas port facilities at nearby Mount Manganui, spurred exponential growth. The population doubled over the next decade, and by 1961 Tauranga was a city.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Dunedin' gummed stamp.

Sheltered Otago Harbour was chosen as the best site for the Free Church settlement of 1848. With the influx of goldrush money in the 1860's and 1870's, land was reclaimed, the commercial district expanded, and 'magnificent and costly buildings' constructed with 'marvellous rapidity'. By 1880, Dunedin was 'a city of consequence'. Many of these facades survived largely intact until the 1960's. Much of the 19th century terrace housing near the city centre survives to this day.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.20

Technical information

Date of issue: 11 November 1998
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations and designs: 40c Wellington, 80c Auckland, $1.00 Christchurch, $1.20 Westport, $1.50 Tauranga, $1.80 Dunedin
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Niki Hill, Duo Design, Auckland, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand, by lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 44mm x 28mm (horizontal)
Miniature sheet size: 165mm x 90mm
Number of stamps per sheet: 50
Perforation gauge: 14
Paper type: 103gsm gummed red phosphor coated stamp paper
Cost of unadressed first day cover: $7.20
Special blocks: Plate/imprint or positional blocks could be obtained by purhcasing at least six sheet stamps. Colour blocks ('traffic lights') were included in plate blocks. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 11 November 1999.