Learning about Hamilton

​​​​Fast facts

  • NZ's largest inland city
  • NZ's longest river, the Waikato, flows for 16km through the city
  • Kirikiriroa, the city's Maori name means "long stretch of gravel"
  • Population of 160,000 people (estimate at June 2016​)
  • Has a youthful population - around half of residents are under 30 years old
  • NZ European make up three quarters of the population and Maori 19 per cent
  • Home to more than 80 ethnic groups
  • Mild climate and moderate year round rainfall keep the city and surrounding area very green
  • Mean temperatures - 18C in January (summer) and 9C in July (winter)
  • 145 parks and gardens and 63 sports areas
  • City has more than 1,000 hectares of open space
  • Home to 25,800 person capacity Waikato Stadium

Hamilton's economy

  • Hamilton is at the centre of one of the richest agricultural and pastoral areas in the world
  • Major service centre for the Waikato region
  • Dairy industry is centred around Hamilton and Waikato - world class centre of agricultural biotech excellence
  • Home to a number of NZ's science research facilities
  • Home to national Agricultural Fieldays - largest agricultural trade show in the southern Hemisphere (generating $290 million sales)
  • City's closeness to two main sea ports (Auckland and Tauranga), two international airports (Auckland and Hamilton), railway, south Auckland industrial base and state highways provide significant opportunities for export and import

For more information about Hamilton see our Economic Reports and Indicators page.

Hamilton's history

The earliest recorded settlers in the Hamilton area were Maori from the Tainui waka. The Tainui people called an area on the west bank of the Waikato River Kirikiriroa (long stretch of gravel), which is the Maori name for Hamilton today. The area was later renamed Hamilton after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, who was killed at the battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga in 1864. 

The Hamilton area has a history of 700-800 years of Maori occupation and settlement, highlighted by pa sites, traditional gardens and agricultural features along the Waikato River. The main hapu of Hamilton/Kirikiriroa and the surrounding area are Ngati Wairere, Ngati Haua and Ngati Mahanga.

In 1863, the New Zealand Settlement Act enabled land to be taken from Maori by the Crown. This resulted in 1.2 million hectares of land being confiscated in the Waikato region, and part of this land provided the basis for European settlement in Hamilton.  

Formal European settlement was established on 24 August 1864, when Captain William Steele came off the gunboat Rangiriri and established the first redoubt near what is now known as Memorial Park.

A military outpost was set up in Hamilton East, which was originally destined to be the main street of Hamilton. Evidence of planning for the centre of the village can be seen in the 'village square' concept of Steele Park and the planting of English trees along Grey Street. 

The Borough of Hamilton was established in 1877 with a population of 1,245 and an area of 752 hectares. In December 1945, Hamilton became a city with 20,000 citizens.

Page reviewed: 04 Jul 2017 2:24pm