Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Māori) is the centre of New Zealand's fourth largest urban area, and is the country's seventh largest city. It is in the Waikato region of the North Island, approximately south of Auckland. It sits at a major road and rail nexus in the centre of the Waikato basin, on both banks of the Waikato River.
The area now covered by the city was originally the site of a handful of Māori villages, including Kirikiriroa ("long stretch of gravel'), from which the city takes its Māori name. By the time British settlers arrived, most of these villages, which sat beside the Waikato River, were abandoned. Missionaries arrived in the area in the 1830s. At the end of the Waikato Campaign
in the New Zealand Wars
the four regiments of the Waikato Militia were settled as a peace-keeping force across the region. The 1st Regiment was at Tauranga
, the 2nd at Pirongia
, the 3rd at Cambridge
and the 4th at Hamilton. The settlement founded on 24 August, 1864 and named after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, the popular Scottish
commander of HMS Esk
, who was killed in the battle of Gate Pa
The road from Auckland reached Hamilton in 1867 and the railway in December 1877 the same month Hamilton became a borough. Hamilton was proclaimed a city in 1945.
The city is near the southernmost navigable reach of the Waikato River, amidst New Zealand's richest and most fertile agricultural land. Initially an agricultural service centre, it now has a growing and diverse economy.
Community archives and historic photograph collections are maintained and are available at Hamilton City Libraries.
The centre of the city, on the Waikato River, is a bustling retail precinct. The entertainment area is quite vibrant due to the large student population. The 2008 Lonely planet guide states that "the city's main street has sprouted a sophisticated and vibrant stretch of bars and eateries that on the weekend at least leave Auckland's Viaduct Harbour for dead in the boozy fun stakes." Hamilton has the second-largest collection of cafés in the country—second only to Ponsonby Road in Auckland. However, Hamilton still struggles with the arguably undeserved nickname of 'Cowtown' due to its origins as a rural service centre. A more common nickname of "Hamiltron: the city of the future" is a gently ironic epithet for the city.
As of 2007, the city continues to grow rapidly. Development is focused on the northern end of the city. Traffic congestion is increasing due to population growth, though road development and planning has kept up with the rapid growth in most places. State Highway 1 runs directly through the city, which contributes to congestion. A bypass is planned, but Transit New Zealand, the national road funding agency, has repeatedly delayed this project to the dismay of Hamilton residents.
The rapid growth of Hamilton has brought with it the side effects of urban sprawl. This type of growth is likely to continue consuming Waikato's profitable farmland as Hamilton City does not have a natural or legislated growth boundary.
The area around the city has seen some recent development into lifestyle blocks.
Geography and climate
Hamilton has a temperate, damp climate, with about of rainfall annually. Thick fog is common on winter mornings, and often lasts until late morning. Daily maximum temperatures range from about 22° to 26 °C
) in January and February to 10° to 15 °C (50°–59 °F) in July and August. Summer occasionally sees temperatures of more than , while on clear winter mornings temperatures may drop to as low as . Snow however is practically unknown.
With the exceptions of low hills around the University of Waikato, Hamilton Lake and to the west of the city, and an extensive network of gullies, the terrain of the city is relatively flat.
Hamilton is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city –- Córdoba, Spain.
Hamilton is a rapidly growing city of over 130,000 people, with around 1.5 million people – 40% of New Zealand's total population – living within a radius.
According to official census figures, Hamilton's population is 65.3% Pākehā/European, 19.9% Māori, 10.6% Asian, 4.7% Pacific Peoples and 1.5% Middle Eastern, Latin American and African.
Government and politics
Hamilton is located in the administrative areas of the Hamilton City Council
. The Council administers the seventh most populous territorial authority in the country. The council consists of thirteen councillors and a mayor
(currently Bob Simcock), and last faced election in 2007. Council elections are held every three years. In July 2007, former mayor Michael Redman
became the CEO of the Council.
The council has six standing committees: City Development, Community and Leisure, Statutory Management, Transport, Finance and Audit, and Stadiums Management. There are also five sub-committees.
Hamilton City is itself part of the Waikato Region, controlled administratively by Environment Waikato.
Hamilton has three electorate
MP's in the New Zealand Parliament
. The electorates are currently represented by:
Education and research are important to the city, through the University of Waikato
, and the Waikato Institute of Technology
. Research at the Ruakura
center has been responsible for much of New Zealand's innovation in agriculture.
Hamilton annually hosts the National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek, the southern hemisphere's biggest agricultural trade exhibition. Mystery Creek is the country's largest event center and hosts other events of national importance, such as the National Car Show and the National Boat Show.
Manufacturing and retail are also important to the local economy, as is the provision of health services through the Waikato Base Hospital. The city is home to New Zealand's largest aircraft manufacturer, Pacific Aerospace, and has its largest concentration of trailer-boat manufacturers.
Recent years have seen the firm establishment of the New Zealand base of the British flight training organisation CTC Aviation.
CTC trains over 100 airline pilots a year at its "Crew Training Centre" at Hamilton Airport.
In 2004, Hamilton City Council honored former resident Richard O'Brien
with a life-size bronze statue of him as Riff Raff in his space suit, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
. The statue was designed by WETA Workshops, who had done the props for the Lord of the Rings films. It stands on the former site of the Embassy Cinema, where Richard watched science fiction-double features.
Museums and theatre
The city is host to a large number of small galleries and the Waikato Museum
. The latter includes Te Winika, one of the best-preserved waka (Māori war canoe) from the pre-colonisation era.
The local rugby union teams are Waikato (Air New Zealand Cup) and the Chiefs (Super 14). The local colours are red, yellow and black hoops, and the provincial mascot is Mooloo, an anthropomorphic cow. Both teams play at Waikato Stadium. Hamilton is also home to a soccer club, Waikato FC, that competes in the New Zealand Football Championship and also plays at Waikato Stadium.
Seddon Park (formerly Westpac Park) is Hamilton's main cricket venue and hosts Test matches and One Day Internationals. It is the home ground of the Northern Districts Cricket Association.
Hamilton is fast becoming a motorsport venue as well. The WRC was held in Hamilton in 2006 and the V8 Supercars will race on a temporary street circuit from 2008 onwards.
Hamilton's main hospital is Waikato Hospital
with 600 beds and a staff of approximately 2,500. There are two other major private hospitals in Hamilton City - Braemar Hospital, located currently in the Lake Area but soon moving to Hospital Area and Southern Cross Hospital, located in Hamilton East.
City facilities and attractions
is the region's most popular tourist attraction and hosts the Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival each year.
Other local attractions include Hamilton Zoo, the Waikato Museum, the Arts Post art gallery, and the SkyCity casino. Just 20 minutes' drive away is Ngaruawahia, the location of Turangawaewae Marae and the home of Māori King Tuheitia Paki.
Hamilton has 6 public libraries located throughout the city with the Central Library housing the main reference & heritage collection.
Hamilton City Theaters provides professional venue and event management at three theatrical venues in the city: Founders Theater, Clarence St Theater, and The Meteor theater.
The Hamilton New Zealand Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located in Temple View, Hamilton. It was opened along with the Church College of New Zealand, a large high school owned by the church, in the late 1950's. Both the college and the temple were built by labour missionaries. Every year, the Temple hosts a large Christmas lighting show which attracts large crowds from all over the country.
Hamilton host a number of annual events that are centered around the Waikato River which flows through the city, These events include The Great Race (rowing), and The Bridge To Bridge Ski Race.
Hamilton International Airport
serves as both a domestic and international airport. There are direct flights to Wellington and Christchurch and regular flights to other destinations throughout the North Island. International flights are largely restricted to trans-Tasman destinations. The airport also served as a major base for now defunct low-cost airlines Freedom Air
and Kiwi Air
Hamilton has extensive cycleways which link the city center with the outlying suburbs. These cycleways consist of a mixture of dedicated cycle lanes and mixed use cycle/walk ways.
Private cars are the transport medium of choice in this flat, spread-out city.
While buses have been gaining in popularity in recent years, the relative lack of congestion compared to other cities, ample availability of parking and inconvenient bus schedules have been holding up progress. Recent additions to the bus system include audio-posts at bus-stops to provide arrival times, and improved weather shelters. A new service called "The Orbiter" provides a circuit round major centers in the city outskirts.
New Zealand's main road artery State Highway 1 runs through Hamilton's western suburbs and connects with State Highway 3 within the city boundaries.
The main geographical barrier in the city is the Waikato River. The six bridges that cross the river are often the focus of morning and evening traffic delays.
The six bridges are:
Hamilton is the railway junction of the East Coast Main Trunk
line with the North Island Main Trunk
line. Rail passengers are served by a large station located at Frankton Junction. Rail passenger services are confined to The Overlander
service which operates between Auckland and Wellington.
Hamilton also has an underground station in the central city located on the East Coast Main Trunk line, currently disused and completely inaccessible.
Hamilton's rail network serves as a major hub for the distribution of dairy products to the ports of Auckland and Tauranga. This hub is located at Crawford St.
Hamilton is home to more than 25,000 tertiary students, mostly enrolled in one of the city's three main tertiary institutes, the University of Waikato
, Waikato Institute of Technology
and Te Wananga o Aotearoa
. As well as state and private primary, intermediate and high schools, it also notably includes a number of Kura Kaupapa Māori
primary schools offering education in the Māori language. A complete list of schools in Hamilton city can be found here
- Craig Baird, racing car driver, born in Hamilton.
- Helen Clark, the current Prime Minister of New Zealand, born in Hamilton.
- Chanel Cole, Australian Idol contestant and member of Australian band Spook, born in Hamilton.
- Guy Doleman, film actor
- Chris van der Drift, racecar driver
- Howden Ganley, former Formula One racing car driver, born in Hamilton.
- Elsie Locke, children's writer, historian, editor and activist, born in Hamilton.
- Malvina Major, opera singer, born in Hamilton.
- John Mitchell, former rugby player, and former New Zealand All Blacks coach.
- Richard O'Brien, creator of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, lived in Hamilton.
- Frank Sargeson, renowned author, born in Hamilton.
- Scott Styris, NZ cricketer, raised and educated in Hamilton.
- Dick Quax, Olympic Silver medallist and world record breaking runner, raised and educated in Hamilton.
- Daniel Vettori, NZ cricketer, lives in Hamilton.
- Gillian Karawe Whitehead, one of New Zealand's most highly regarded composers, born in Hamilton.
- Let's Elope, Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year in 1992
Hamilton has three sister cities
, as designated by Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI)
- Hamilton City Council
- Hamilton Gardens
- What's on Hamilton
- Live City Cameras
- Waikato Museum
- Hamilton City Libraries