Hamilton City Guide
Hamilton is situated in the North Island about an hours drive south of Auckland. Hamilton is the centre of the Waikato Region, one of New Zealand's richest agricultural regions. The city is built around the beautiful Waikato river and has a population of around 118,000 people.
The Waikato river was once Hamilton's only transport and communications link. Now the main highway passes through the city linking the whole of New Zealand. Hamilton also has the largest railway junction in New Zealand, connecting the North Island Main Trunk line and the East Coast Main Trunk.
Originally called Kirikiriroa when the first Maori inhabited the region, it was later renamed Hamilton after Captain Fane Charles Hamilton, the popular commander of HMS Esk, who was killed in the battle of Gate Pa, Tauranga. The area has been settled by Maori from the Tainui iwi for centuries.
Several villages were situated on the banks of the Waikato River. The rich soils were used extensively to grow traditional crops such as kumara. Fortified pa were built on strategic headlands, particularly on the bends of the river. During the late 1840s to early 1860s Waikato tribes used the river to transport large quantities of flour, maize, pigs, potatoes, kumara, flax, timber and fish to the markets Auckland.
While agriculture has traditionally been the dominant industry in Hamilton, other sectors (such as manufacturing and retail) are catching up and providing more diverse business opportunities in Hamilton. The Hamilton Airport connects to many popular destinations in New Zealand and Australia.
The area now covered by the city was originally the site of a handful of Maori villages, including Pukete and Kirikiriroa ("long stretch of gravel'), from which the city takes its Maori name. Local Maori were the target of raids by Ngapuhi during the Musket Wars, and several pa sites from this period can still be found beside the Waikato River. By the time British settlers arrived after 1863, most of these villages had been 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, Tauranga.
The road from Auckland reached Hamilton in 1867 and the railway in December 1877 the same month Hamilton became a borough. Hamilton reached 1,000 people in 1900 Hamilton was proclaimed a city in 1945.
The city is near the southernmost navigable reach (by the settlers steam boats) of the Waikato River, amidst New Zealand's richest and now fertile agricultural land that was once largely Raupo and Kahikatea swamp 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. An affectionate nickname is "Hamiltron: city of the future".
As of 2010, 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 .In August 2009 $1Billion was allocated to fast track the Waikato Expressway from Auckland To Cambridge which includes design work on the Hamilton bypass.
The rapid growth of Hamilton has brought with it the side effects of urban sprawl especially to the North East of the City in the Rototuna area. 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 especially since the 1970's.
Hamilton has a temperate, damp climate, with about 1,184 mm (46.6 in) of rainfall annually. B. J. Garnier said it had the worst human climate in NZ, but conceded that the reliable rainfall of 850mm minimum (1949) and 2000mmm maximum (1956), was ideal for dairy farming.
Thick fog is common on winter mornings, and often lasts until late morning. Daily maximum temperatures range from about 22° to 26 °C (72°–79 °F) in January and February to 10° to 15 °C (50°–59 °F) in July and August. Summer occasionally sees temperatures of more than 30 °C (86 °F), while on clear winter mornings temperatures may drop to as low as -5 °C (23 °F). Ground frosts are common but 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. The 64 hectare lake is formed in the crater of an ancient volcano. The formation of the crater saw the erupted material deposited in a Tuff Ring forming low hills around three sides of the lake. Water drains into the lake from streams that drain the extensive peatland to the West and also from direct rainfall. Subsequently the crater was infilled with deposits of sediment when the ancient Waikato River flowed through the area about 15,000 years ago. The lake averages 2.4 m deep but is 6 m at the deepest point. Water seeps out of the lake through an underground fissure to the North, which drains into the headwaters of Maeroa Gully. The present channel of the Waikato River is relatively new in Geological terms. Its former path was north through the Hinuera Valley and out to the sea at Thames. The soils of the Waikato were largely formed from volcanic material eroded from the Volcanic Plateau at the end of the last ice age. The melting ice sent vast volumes of outwash material north to the Waikato.
In its natural state Hamilton and environs was very swampy in winter. Early photos of Hamilton East show carts buried up to their axles in thick mud. The site had numerous small lakes which have now been drained. Up until the 1880s it was possible to row and drag a dinghy from the city to many outlying farms to the North east. This swampy, damp environment was ideal breeding ground for the TB bacillus which was a major health hazard in the pioneering days. The first Hamilton hospital was constructed on a hill to avoid this problem.
In the 1930s Garden Place Hill, which ran from the present Wintec site eastwards to the old post office (now casino), was removed by unemployed workers working with picks and shovels and a model T Ford truck. The Western remains of the hill are retained by a large concrete wall. The earth was taken 4km north to partly fill the Maeroa gully adjacent to the Baptist Church on the main road.
Hamilton is on the same latitude as Melbourne, Australia