Hamilton, New Zealand

Kirikiriroa (Māori)
Metropolitan Area

Hamilton City / Lake Rotoroa / Waikato River
Nickname(s): Hamiltron, The Tron.[1] H-Town,[1] Previously: Cowtown,[1] The Fountain City[2]

Location of the Hamilton Territorial Authority

Location of Hamilton, New Zealand

Coordinates: 37°47′S 175°17′E / 37.783°S 175.283°E / -37.783; 175.283Coordinates: 37°47′S 175°17′E / 37.783°S 175.283°E / -37.783; 175.283
Country  New Zealand
Island North Island
Region Waikato Region
Territorial authority Hamilton City
  Mayor Andrew King
  Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher
  Territorial 110.8 km2 (42.8 sq mi)
  Urban 877.1 km2 (338.7 sq mi)
Elevation 40 m (131 ft)
Population (June 2016)[3]
  Territorial 161,200
  Density 1,500/km2 (3,800/sq mi)
  Urban 193,600
  Urban density 220/km2 (570/sq mi)
  Metro 230,000
  Demonym Hamiltonian
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
  Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Postcode(s) 3200, 3204, 3206, 3210, 3214, 3216
Area code(s) 07
Local iwi Tainui
Website www.hamilton.govt.nz

Hamilton (Māori: Kirikiriroa) is the seat and most populous city of the Waikato region, in the North Island of New Zealand.

The city encompasses a land area of about 110 km2 (42 sq mi)[4] on the banks of the Waikato River, and is home to 161,200 people,[3] making it New Zealand's fourth most-populous city. Hamilton City is part of the wider Hamilton Urban Area, which also encompasses the nearby towns of Ngaruawahia, Te Awamutu and Cambridge.

Initially an agricultural service centre, Hamilton now has a growing and diverse economy and is the third fastest growing urban area in New Zealand (behind Pukekohe and Auckland).[5] Education and research and development play an important part in Hamilton's economy, as the city is home to approximately 40,000 tertiary students and 1,000 PhD-qualified scientists.[6]


Victoria Bridge in 1910.

The area now covered by the city was originally the site of a handful of Māori villages (kāinga), including Pukete, Miropiko and Kirikiriroa ("long stretch of gravel'), from which the city takes its Māori name. Local Māori were the target of raids by Ngāpuhi during the Musket Wars,[7] and several sites from this period can still be found beside the Waikato River.In December 2011 several rua or food storage pits were found near the Waikato River bank, close to the Waikato museum. Magistrate Gorst, estimated that Kirikiriroa had a population of about 78 before the Waikato Kingitanga wars of 1863–64. The government estimated the Waikato area had a Maori population of 3,400 at the same time. By the time British settlers arrived after 1863, most of these villages had been abandoned as the inhabitants were away fighting with the Kingitanga rebels further west in the battlefields of the upper Waipa river. Missionaries arrived in the area in the 1830s.[8] 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.[8] The 1st Regiment was at Tauranga, the 2nd at Pirongia, the 3rd at Cambridge and the 4th at Kirikiriroa.[8][9] The settlement was founded on 24 August 1864 and named by Colonel William Moule after Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton,[10] the popular Scottish commander of HMS Esk, who was killed in the battle of Gate Pā, Tauranga. Many of the soldier/settlers who intended to farm after the 1863 war, walked off their land in 1868 disgusted at the poor quality of the land. Much of the land was swampy or under water. In 1868 Hamilton's population, which was about 1,000 in 1864, dropped to 300 as farmers left.[11]

The road from Auckland reached Hamilton in 1867 and the railway in December 1877. That same month, the towns of Hamilton West and Hamilton East merged under a single borough council.[12] The first traffic bridge between Hamilton West and Hamilton East, known as the Union Bridge, opened in 1879. It was replaced by the Victoria Bridge in 1910.

Hood Street in 1962.

The first railway bridge, the Claudelands Bridge, was opened in 1884. It was converted to a road traffic bridge in 1965.[13] Hamilton reached 1,000 people in 1900, and the town of Frankton merged with the Hamilton Borough in 1917.[9] Between 1912 and 1936, Hamilton expanded with new land in Claudelands (1912), Maeroa (1925), and Richmond – modern day Waikato Hospital and northern Melville (1936).[14] Hamilton was proclaimed a city in 1945.[8]

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[15] Beale Cottage is an 1872 listed building in Hamilton East.

From 1985 MV Waipa Delta[16] provided excursions along the river through the town centre. In 2009 Waipa Delta[17] was moved to provide trips on Waitemata Harbour in Auckland,[18] but replaced by a smaller boat. That too ceased operation and the pontoon at Parana Park was removed in 2013.[19] The Delta moved to Taupo in 2012.[20] The former Golden Bay vessel,[21] Cynthia Dew, has run 4 days a week[22] on the river since 2012.[23]

On 10 March 2013 a statue was erected in honour of Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, the man whom the city is named after.[24]

Hamilton's population growth has been rapid in recent decades –

1878: 1,243

1886: 1,201

1901: 1,253

1906: 2,150[25]

1911: 4,655[26]

1916: 5,677

1921: 11,441

1926: 13,980

1931: 15,400[25][27]

1936: 16,150[26]

1945: 21,982[25]

1951: 29,838[26]

1956: 35,941[28]

1961: 42,212[29]

1966: 63,000[30]

1971: 74,784[31]

1976: 87,968[32]

1981: 91,109[33]

1986: 94,511[34]

1991: 101,448[35]

1996: 109,043[36]

2001: 116,604[37]

2006: 129,249[38]

2013: 141,615[37]

Hamilton today

Hood Street in Hamilton Central.

Hamilton Central, 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."[39] Many of the city's venues and attractions are located on the old Town Belt, including Hamilton Gardens, Waikato Stadium, Seddon Park, Founders Theatre and the Hamilton Lake Domain.

As of 2016, the city continues to grow rapidly. Development is focused on the northern end of the city although in 2012 the council made a decision to balance the city's growth by approving an urban development to the south. Traffic congestion is increasing due to population growth, though the council has undertaken many road development projects to try to keep up with the rapid growth.[40] State Highway 1 runs through the western and southern suburbs and has a major junction with State Highway 3 south of the city centre, which contributes to congestion. The Hamilton City Council is building a 2/4-lane arterial road, Wairere Drive, through the northern and eastern suburbs to form a 25 km suburban ring road with State Highway 1, which is due for completion in early 2015.,[41] while the New Zealand Transport Agency plans to complete the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway by 2019, easing congestion taking State Highway 1 out of the city and bypassing it to the east.[42]

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. Further development is planned in the Rototuna and Peacocke suburbs.[43] There has been significant development of lifestyle blocks adjacent to the Hamilton Urban Area, in particular Tamahere, and Matangi.

List of suburbs

Casabella Lane, Hamilton CBD
Western suburbs

Beerescourt; Bader; Crawshaw; Deanwell; Dinsdale; Fitzroy; Forest Lake; Frankton; Glenview; Grandview Heights; Hamilton Central; Hamilton North; Hamilton West; Livingstone; Maeroa; Melville; Nawton; Peacocke; Pukete; Rotokauri; St Andrews; Stonebridge; Te Rapa; Temple View; Thornton; Western Heights; Whitiora.

Eastern suburbs

Ashmore; Callum Brae; Chartwell; Chedworth Park; Claudelands; Enderley; Fairfield; Fairview Downs; Flagstaff; Hamilton East; Harrowfield; Hillcrest; Huntington; Magellan Rise; Queenwood; Ruakura; Riverlea; Rototuna; Silverdale; Somerset Heights; St James Park; St Petersburg.

Towns/Suburbs in the Hamilton Urban Area

Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Ngaruawahia, Taupiri, Horotiu, Horsham Downs, Huntly, Gordonton, Ohaupo, Ngahinapouri, Te Kowhai, Whatawhata, Tamahere, Matangi, Tauwhare, Rukuhia, Kihikihi.


Waikato River in Hamilton Central.

The landscape of Hamilton was formed by the last eruption of the Lake Taupo volcano complex 1800 years ago which sent waves of volcanic debris northwards and changed the path of the Waikato River to its present path. With the exceptions of the many low hills such as those around the University of Waikato, Hamilton Lake, Beerescourt, Sylvester Road, Pukete and to the west of the city, and an extensive network of gullies, the terrain of the city is relatively flat. In some areas such as Te Rapa, one old path of an ancient river can be traced. The relatively soft and unconsolidated soil material is still being actively eroded by rain and runoff.

In its natural state, Hamilton and environs was very swampy in winter with many of the 30 small lakes overflowing into surrounding peat swamps. Hamilton is surrounded by 7 large peat bogs such as Komakorau to the North and Rukuhia and Moanatuatua to the South, as well as many smaller ones. The total area of peat bog is about 655 km2.[44] Early photos of Hamilton East show carts buried up to their axles in thick mud. The site had about small lakes, most of 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. One of the reasons why population growth was so slow in Hamilton until the 1920s was the great difficulty in bridging the many arms of the deep swampy gullies that cross the city. Hamilton has 6 major dendritic gully complexes with the 15 km long, 12 branch, Kirikiriroa system being in the north of the city and the southern Mystery creek-Kaipaki gully complex being the largest.[45]

In the 1930s, Garden Place Hill, one of the many small hills sometimes referred to as the Hamilton Hills, was removed by unemployed workers working with picks and shovels and model T Ford trucks. The Western remains of the hill are retained by a large concrete wall. The original hill ran from the present Wintec site eastwards to the old post office (now casino). The earth was taken 4 km north to partly fill the Maeroa gully adjacent to the Central Baptist Church on Ulster Streat, the main road heading north.[46]

Lake Rotoroa (Hamilton Lake) began forming about 20,000 years ago. Originally it was part of an ancient river system that was cut off by deposition material and became two small lakes divided by a narrow peninsula. With higher rainfall and drainage from the extensive peat land to the west, the water level rose so the narrow peninsula was drowned so forming one larger lake. To the north the lake is 8m deep and in the southern (hospital) end 6m deep. The old dividing peninsula, the start of which is still visible above water on the eastern side, is only 2m below the surface.

Hamilton is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city – Córdoba, Spain.


Hamilton’s climate is oceanic (Köppen: Cfb ), with highly moderated temperatures due to New Zealand’s location surrounded by ocean. Despite this, as the largest inland city in the country winter mornings can be cold by New Zealand standards (the lowest of the North Island’s main centres), occasionally dropping as low as −4 °C (25 °F). Likewise summers can be some of the hottest in the country with temperatures rising as high as 29 °C. Hamilton also features very high humidity (similar to tropical climates such as Singapore) which can make temperatures feel uncomfortably warm or cold. Ground frosts are common and snow is possible but rare. The only recorded snowfall in modern times was light snowflakes in mid August 2011 during a prolonged cold period that saw snowfall as far north as Dargaville.

Hamilton receives considerable precipitation amounting to around 1,100mm over 125 days per year. This coupled with average sunshine hours of around 2000 makes Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato an extremely fertile region.

Typically summers are warm and dry and winters cool and wet. Fog is common during winter mornings, especially close to the Waikato River which runs through the city centre. Heavy fog usually burns off by noon to produce sunny and calm winter days. Hamilton also has the lowest average wind speed of New Zealand’s main centres as a result of its inland location, in a depression surrounded by high hills and mountains.[47]

Climate data for Hamilton, New Zealand (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.4
Average low °C (°F) 12.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 76.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 7.8 6.2 7.7 8.4 11.0 12.6 12.8 13.3 11.7 11.7 10.7 10.5 124.4
Average relative humidity (%) 80.5 84.3 84.7 86.4 89.9 91.4 90.8 88.2 83.2 81.9 79.1 79.9 85.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 229.8 192.9 193.3 165.1 138.3 112.8 126.4 144.1 147.5 174.8 187.1 207.6 2,019.6
Source: NIWA[48]


Largest groups of overseas-born residents[49]
Nationality Population (2013)
 United Kingdom 6,009
 China 3,504
 India 3,060
 Fiji 2,271
 Australia 2,223
 Philippines 2,040
 South Korea 1,655
 Netherlands 645
 Samoa 618
 Malaysia 603

Hamilton is growing annually, with populations of 230,000 for the urban area and 161,200 for the territorial authority (June 2016s).[3] The urban are and territorial authority are home to 4.9 percent and 3.4 percent of New Zealand's population respectively.

According to official census figures, Hamilton's population is 69.5% Pākehā/European, 21.3% Māori, 13.8% Asian, 5.1% Pacific Peoples and 2.0% Middle Eastern, Latin American and African.[50] More than 80 ethnic groups are represented within Hamilton's population. Around 24.0 percent of Hamilton's population was born overseas, compared to 25.2 percent nationally.[51] The main area of population growth is in the Flagstaff-Rototuna area. With its large tertiary student population at Wintec and Waikato University, approximately 40,000 tertiary students, Hamilton has a significant transient population.[52] Hamilton is the second fastest growing population centre after Auckland.

Around 47.8 percent of Hamiltonians affiliate with Christianity and 8.3 percent affiliate with non-Christian religions, while 41.6 percent are irreligious and 4.2 percent objected to answering. Roman Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination with 12.0 percent affiliating, followed by Anglicanism (9.9 percent) and Presbyterianism (6.3 percent). Hinduism (2.9 percent), Islam (1.9 percent) and Buddhism (1.6 percent) are the largest non-Christian religions.[51]

Government and politics

Local government

Hamilton is located in the administrative areas of the Hamilton City Council. The council consists of thirteen councillors and a mayor (currently Andrew King), elected in 2016 after incumbent Julie Hardaker decided not to contest and by only six votes ahead of runner-up Paula Southgate. The council has two wards (constituencies), east and west, with the boundary between the two being the Waikato River. Council elections are held every three years and most recently in October 2016.[53]

The current council members are:-

Mayor Andrew King
Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher
Councillors – East Ward Mark Bunting
James Casson
Garry Mallett
Rob Pascoe
Paula Southgate
Philip Yeung
Councillors – West Ward Martin Gallagher
Siggi Henry
Dave Macpherson
Angela O'Leary
Geoff Taylor
Leo Tooman

Hamilton City is itself part of the Waikato Region, controlled administratively by the Waikato Regional Council.

Central government

Hamilton has three electorate MPs in the New Zealand Parliament. Both Hamilton East and Hamilton West electorates are considered bellwether seats.

The electorates are currently represented by:

General electorates:

Māori electorate:

Hamilton based List MPs:


Education and research are important to the city, through the University of Waikato and the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec). Research at the Ruakura research centres have been responsible for much of New Zealand's innovation in agriculture. Hamilton's main revenue source is the dairy industry, due to its location in the centre of New Zealand's largest dairying area – the Waikato region.

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 centre and hosts other events of national importance, such as Parachute Christian Music Festival, 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 Hospital. The city is home to New Zealand's largest aircraft manufacturer, Pacific Aerospace, which manufactured its 1,000th aircraft in August 2009, and Micro Aviation NZ which manufactures and exports high-quality microlight aircraft. It also has its largest concentration of trailer-boat manufacturers such as Buccaneer. Hamilton is also the home of Gallagher Group Ltd, a manufacturer and exporter of electric fencing and security systems. Employing 600 people Gallagher has been doing business in Hamilton since 1938.

Recent years have seen the firm establishment of the New Zealand base of the British flight training organisation CTC Aviation. CTC Aviation trains over 350 airline pilots a year at its crew training centre at Hamilton Airport.[58]

Tainui Group Holdings Ltd, the commercial arm of the Waikato tribe, is one of Hamilton's largest property developers. The Waikato tribe is one of the city's largest landowners. Tainui owns land at The Base, Centre Place, The Warehouse Central, University of Waikato, Wintec, the Courthouse, Fairfield College, and the Ruakura AgResearch centre.[59] The Waikato tribe is a major shareholder of the Novotel Tainui and the Hotel Ibis.

It has developed the large retail centre The Base in the old Te Rapa airforce base site which was returned to Tainui, following confiscation in the 1860s, as part of a 1995 Treaty of Waitangi settlement. In mid-2010, The Base was further expanded with Te Awa Mall complex stage 1. Many large retailers such as Farmers and other nationwide speciality chains have located at Te Awa. In 2011 a further stage was opened, with cinemas, restaurants, shops and an underground carpark.

The city's three major covered shopping malls are Centre Place (formerly Downtown Plaza)[60] in the CBD, Chartwell Shopping Centre and most recently Te Awa at The Base. After Farmers Hamilton moves from its existing site on corner of Alexandra and Collingwood streets into the redeveloped Centre Place in late 2013,[61] each major mall will have the department store as an anchor tenant.

The western suburb of Frankton is home to a smaller shopping centre and long-standing local furniture and home department store Forlongs.[62] There are many other small suburban shopping centres or plazas, often centred on a New World or Countdown supermarket, such as in Rototuna, Hillcrest and Glenview.


Garden Place

In 2004, Hamilton City Council honoured former resident Richard O'Brien with a life-size bronze statue of him as character Riff Raff, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in his space suit. The statue was designed by Weta Workshop, props makers for The Lord of the Rings films. It stands on the former site of the Embassy Cinema, where O'Brien watched science fiction-double features.[63]

Several Maori Pa have been part restored at Pukete, Hikuwai and Miropiko along the banks of the Waikato River.

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.


Hamilton is host to several large scale music festivals including the Soundscape music festival, which is one of New Zealand's largest street parties.[64][65][66] The city also hosts the Opus Chamber Orchestra which draws musicians from around the Waikato Region[67] and is the home of the New Zealand Chamber Soloists.[68] An ongoing classical concert series featuring world class musicians[69] is held throughout the year at the Gallagher Concert Chamber, organised by the University of Waikato, Conservatorium of Music.


Balloons over Waikato.
Tronik DJs play at the sellout Soundscape street party


The local rugby union teams are Waikato (ITM Cup) and the Chiefs (Super Rugby). The local colours are red, yellow and black, and the provincial mascot is Mooloo, an anthropomorphic cow. Both teams play at Waikato Stadium. Hamilton is also home to a football club, WaiBOP United, that competes in the ASB Premiership during summer. The winter football clubs Hamilton Wanderers and Melville United both compete in the Lotto Sport Italia NRFL Premier League are also based in Hamilton.

Waikato Stadium, Lions vs. NZ Māori, 2005.

Seddon Park (formerly Westpac Park) is Hamilton's main cricket venue and hosts Test matches, One Day Internationals and T20 Internationals. It is the home ground of the Northern Districts Cricket Association.

Hamilton is fast becoming a motorsport venue as well. A round of the WRC was held in 2006 and the annual V8 Supercars race on a street circuit started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

Rugby league is also played in Hamilton with the two local teams; Hamilton City Tigers and Hamilton Hornets/College Old Boys play in the Premier Division of the Waikato Rugby League.

Sailing takes place on Hamilton lake for 9 months of the year. The Hamilton Yacht Club has its clubrooms, slipway and ramp on the western side of Lake Rotoroa. Motor boats are not allowed on the lake, with an exception of the Yacht Club rescue boats.

Each year in April, Hamilton supports the '5 Bridges' swimming challenge. The course starts in Hamilton Gardens, and continues for 6 kilometres finishing at Ann St Beach. The swim is assisted by the current, with the full distance typically covered in under an hour. The event celebrated in 71st year on 11 April 2010.[71]


The major daily newspaper is the Waikato Times. Weekly community newspapers include the Hamilton Press, Hamilton News and student magazine Nexus.

Local radio stations include The Breeze, Free FM, More FM, Contact FM. The Edge and The Rock, two of New Zealand's most popular radio stations, were originally based in Hamilton.

City facilities and attractions

Hamilton Gardens is the region's most popular tourist attraction and hosts the Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival each year. The Base is New Zealand's second largest shopping centre, with over 7.5 million visitors per year to the 190 stores. Te Awa, an enclosed speciality retail mall at The Base, was awarded a silver medal by the International Council of Shopping Centres for the second-best expansion in the Asia Pacific region.[73]

Other local attractions include Hamilton Zoo, the Waikato Museum, the Hamilton Astronomical Society Observatory, 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 six public libraries located throughout the city with the Central Library housing the main reference and heritage collection. Hamilton City Theaters provides professional venue and event management at two of the three theatrical venues in the city: Founders Theater, and Clarence St Theater. The Meteor theatre was bought by the One Victoria Trust in 2013 after the Hamilton City Council proposed the sale of the theatre and is now privately operated.

St Peter's Cathedral, built in 1916, is the Anglican cathedral in Hamilton, on Cathedral Hill at the southern end of Victoria Street. There is also St Mary's Roman Catholic cathedral on the opposite side of the river.

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 1950s. Both the college and the temple were built by labour missionaries. The school was closed in December 2009. Every year, the temple hosts a large Christmas lighting show which attracts large crowds from all over the country.

The Waikato River Explorer runs scenic tours of the river from the River Jetty at Hamilton Gardens. These run weekly Thursday to Sunday all through the year. There is also a weekly Wine Tasting Cruise to Mystery Creek Wines each Sunday.[22]


Waikato Hospital in Hamilton West.

Hamilton's public hospital is Waikato Hospital with 600 beds and a staff of approximately 2,500 located between Melville and Hamilton West.[74] There are two other major private hospitals in Hamilton City; Braemar Hospital, located in the same area that Waikato Hospital is located, and Southern Cross Hospital, located in Hamilton East. A new cancer hospital is due to open in November 2010 on the previous Braemar Hospital campus. Hamilton also has a two private primary maternity hospitals, which are fully funded by the Waikato District Health Board, Waterford Birth Centre and River Ridge East Birth Centre.[75]



Hamilton Airport serves as a domestic airport. It is jointly owned by Hamilton City and neighbouring district councils. The airport is located just outside Hamilton's boundary, within the Waipa District. There are direct flights with Air New Zealand to Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Wellington, and with Sun Air to New Plymouth, Gisborne and Tauranga also there are charter flights to other destinations throughout the North Island. The airport also served as a major base for now defunct low-cost airlines Freedom Air and Kiwi Air. Virgin Australia offered three international flights a week, to and from Brisbane Airport and Sydney Airport. However, all international flights have now been discontinued, primarily due to a small market.

The airport is the base for pilot training schools and the aircraft manufacturer, Pacific Aerospace, is located at the northern end of the runway.


Hamilton has extensive cycleways which link the city centre with the outlying suburbs.[76][77] These cycleways consist of a mixture of dedicated cycle lanes,which are 1 metre wide strips either coloured green or with a painted outline of a cycle and mixed use cycle/walk ways which are mainly located alongside the Waikato River.[78] The City's design guide says the preferred width for cycleways is 3 m (9.8 ft).[79]


An extensive bus network provides coverage of Hamilton City. Many routes extend radially from the central business district, while two ring routes encompass the central business district and the outer suburbs. An advert in a 1937 Railways Magazine[80] showed 10 buses in the Buses Ltd fleet and said they met all trains at Frankton. Buses Ltd had cut its fares in 1928 to achieve a virtual monopoly by driving Green Bus Co. out of business.[81]

New Zealand's main road artery State Highway 1 runs through several of Hamilton's suburbs and connects with State Highway 3 at a major intersection within the city boundaries. The Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway, due for completion in 2019, will carry State Highway 1 to the east of Hamilton City, effectively bypassing the city and easing congestion between commuting city traffic and through traffic. The Cambridge section of the expressway, due for completion in 2016, will help ease congestion between Hamilton and Cambridge.

The Hamilton Ring Road project was initiated to free some of the city's streets from peak-traffic congestion and improve connectivity around the city. It involved extending Wairere Drive to run from Cambridge Road to the Avalon Road Bypass. As part of the project, large segments of Wairere Drive and the Pukete Bridge were widened from two lanes to four lanes.

Safer Speed Areas 40 km/h limits were first introduced in Hamilton in 2011 and by 2014 there were 36 of them,[82] many in suburbs near the river.[83]


Fairfield Bridge, in central Hamilton.
Claudlands Bridge, Waikato
Claudelands Bridge, Hamilton, NZ. Taken from just below the Bridge Street bridge.

The six road bridges that cross the river[84] are often the focus of morning and evening traffic delays. The six road bridges within the city are (from north to south):

In addition to the road bridges within the city, the Horotiu bridge is located approximately 10 km north of the city centre and the Narrows Bridge approximately 10 km to the south. The Narrows bridge was closed for reconstruction of its piles in September 2010.[85] In Jan 2011 widening of the 1 km approach road Wairere Drive to Pukete bridge began .The bridge was expanded to 4 lanes in early 2013.

The river is also crossed by a rail bridge and a pedestrian bridge:


Hamilton has buses linking the CBD to most of its suburbs and an Orbiter service linking many of those suburbs to each other, to suburban shopping centres, the hospital, university, etc.


Hamilton is the railway junction of the East Coast Main Trunk (ECMT) and the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). It is the busiest in New Zealand outside of the Auckland and Wellington metropolitan areas, and is home to the Te Rapa Marshalling Yard and locomotive depot, the northern end of the 25kV AC 50 Hz electrification between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

The original Hamilton Railway Station was a large island station, in later years with two large signalboxes, just north of the locomotive depot in the junction between the ECMT and NIMT. Due to the increase in rail traffic in the 1970s and the end of steam operation in the North Island in 1968, the old station was replaced by one opened on the site of the locomotive depot in 1975. The former Frankton South End signalbox was relocated to the Hamilton Miniature Engineers' site at Minogue Park in Te Rapa, opposite the new Te Rapa loco depot, while the station building ended up near Waikato University as a cafe.

Passenger services are limited to the new Northern Explorer, which replaced The Overlander in 2012. Previous services include the Kaimai Express and Geyserland Express railcars to Tauranga and Rotorua (Koutu) respectively and were cancelled in 2002, and the overnight Northerner, which ceased operation in 2004 under Toll Rail. About 2008, the canopy over platform 1 (NIMT) has been reduced, while platform 2 (ECMT) is only used by excursion trains.

Until 1964 the ECMT cut across the central city and crossed what is now the Claudelands Bridge. This proved a problem with growing traffic congestion at level crossings, and in 1964 a new low-level line, Hamilton Central station and railway bridge over the Waikato River were built.[86] In later years part of this line was enclosed in a tunnel.

Hamilton Central station was enclosed under the new New Zealand Railways Road Services bus terminal that was built in the late 1960s, but was later closed and the entrance blocked off with a slab of concrete. With the closure of the bus station and its demolition to make way for a new Warehouse store, the entrance was blocked in 2005/6 by the new foundations of the store and its underground carpark.

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 on Crawford St, on land that was formerly part of the Te Rapa Marshalling Yard, just north of the locomotive depot.[87]

Recently there have been moves to re-introduce daily commuter train services to Auckland, with various studies supporting the economic and environmental benefits.[88]

Hamilton also has two locomotives on display:

The railway settlement

From the arrival of the railway in Hamilton, Frankton was a railway town. In 1923, the suburb became even more railway-orientated when the Frankton Junction Railway House Factory opened, producing the famous George Troup designed railway houses sent to many North Island railway settlements, which are now sought-after pieces of real estate. Its 60 workers[89] produced almost 1400 pre-fabricated railway houses at a peak rate of 400 a year, using rimu and matai from the railway's central North Island forests. The sawmill also produced everything else such as signal masts and boxes, bridges, sleepers, and even furniture for railway stations. It was too efficient for private builders, who got the housing factory closed in 1929. When it finally closed in the 1990s it was very dilapidated, but NZHPT supported restoration of the Category 1 historic place, retaining original windows, big sliding doors and the saw-tooth roof.[90] It is now home to a range of businesses.[91]

Frankton also was home to the Way and Works depot, still in operation as the KiwiRail Network depot. This was connected to the main line by a short siding that ran past the factory; this line was last used in 1997 when a shunting locomotive retrieved two flat wagons from the Way and Works depot.

The railway workers' community was centred largely around the W&W depot and sawmill, containing some 200 houses and a Railways Social Hall.[92] Many of the houses are still in place, the majority being the classic 90sq2 three-bedroom design used as standard across New Zealand for railway staff.[93]


Hamilton is home to more than 40,000 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.

The city has six state secondary schools, in a clockwise direction from north: Fairfield College in Fairfield, Hamilton Boys' High School in Hamilton East, Hillcrest High School in Silverdale, Melville High School in Melville, Hamilton Girls' High School in the central city, and Fraser High School in Nawton. Both Boys' and Girls' High offer boarding facilities. A new state secondary school is planned for the Rototuna area to serve the booming north-eastern corner of the city. The project had been delayed several years as the current secondary school serving the area, Fairfield College, is below capacity. The new secondary school is planned to open in 2016.[94]

Additionally, Hamilton is home to a number of state-integrated and private schools. There are numerous state-integrated Catholic primary schools throughout the city. Sacred Heart Girls College and St John's College are the integrated Catholic high schools, for girls and boys respectively. Southwell School is a private co-educational Anglican primary school. Waikato Diocesan School for Girls is an integrated Anglican high school. 'Dio' is also the oldest secondary school in the city, founded in 1928.[94] St Paul's Collegiate School is a private high school for boys, also accepting girls from Year 11. All three Anglican schools are boarding and day schools. Hamilton Christian School is a private coeducational nondenominational Christian school for Years 1–13, founded in 1982.


Although telegraph came to Hamilton with the 1864 invasion which established the town, it was quite late in developing its gas (1895), water (1903), sewage (1907) and electricity supplies (1913), probably because its population remained low; in 1911 Hamilton's population was 3,542 and Frankton's 1,113.[95] Optical cables and microwave towers now provide telecommunications links, gas is supplied by pipeline from Taranaki, water from the Waikato River by the Water Treatment Station at Waiora Terrace, sewage flows for treatment at Pukete and electricity comes from the national grid. Restrictions are still placed on garden sprinklers in summer and the Pukete sewage works was still not always meeting discharge Resource consent conditions in 2013.[96]


A telegraph line from Auckland came shortly after the invasion,[97] reaching Whatawhata, Te Awamutu and Cambridge by October 1864.[98] Telephones came to Hamilton from 1882.[98] Hamilton got a telephone exchange in 1904 with 39 subscribers.[99] Hamilton telephones were put on an automatic exchange between 1915[98] and 1920.[98] From the 1950s Hamilton was linked into the network of microwave towers via the towers at Te Aroha and Te Uku. By 2012 Hamilton had over 500 km of fibre optic cable, allowing broadband speeds over 20Mbps in much of the city.[100]


Auckland Gas Company had been set up in 1862, but it wasn't until the Hamilton Gasworks Act 1895 that Henry Atkinson (son of the manager of Auckland gasworks)[101] was allowed to set up a gasworks in Clarence St on allotment 322 (see photo of the PlaceMakers site in 1961) and put gas pipes under the streets. Work started on laying about 50 tons of pipes in July 1895.[102]

Clarence St gasworks in 1967 with Pembroke Rd, Pembroke La, Thackeray St, Tristram St in background - Hamilton, including city buildings.

It also allowed the city to purchase after 12 years at a price determined by arbitration.[103] A 1907 referendum authorised the city council to take over the gasworks. In 1911 the Privy Council set the purchase price at ₤34,402/14/3d ($5.5m at 2015 prices),[104] half of which was for goodwill.[105]

In 1913 the works was expanded and mains laid over the railway bridge into Hamilton East and along Ohaupo Rd.[106]

As well as gas, coke, tar and tar paint were produced.[107] Waikato coal was mixed with coal shipped via Greymouth and Raglan from 1964 until 25 March 1970, when the gasworks converted to natural gas.[108] The works closed after the 363 km (226 mi) x 14 inches (36 cm) Kapuni and 307 kilometres (191 mi) x 34 inches (86 cm) Maui gas pipelines to Huntly were built in 1970 and 1973.[109] The site was cleaned up after demolition in the 1990s, but is still monitored by Regional Council for contamination.[110] In 2012 Vector replaced the low pressure cast iron network pipes with new medium pressure pipes.


By 1890 complaints were being made of a shortage of water in the wells and tanks.[111] In 1902 a poll of ratepayers approved borrowing £5,000 to set up a water supply.[112] In 1903 3.2 km (2 mi) of pipes supplied water to 80 properties in Victoria, Anglesea, Collingwood, Clarence and Selkirk streets and the borough turncock reported average use at 15 imperial gallons (68 l) a day[113] (average consumption is now 224 litres (49 imp gal) a day).[114] By 1908 nearly all of Hamilton West had piped water, extended to Frankton and Claudelands in 1912.[115] A contract to pump the water into a tower was let in 1912.[116] By 1916[117] a 75 feet (23 m) high water tower on Lake Rd[118] had been built to give extra pressure, mainly for the Fire Brigade[119] whose station opened in 1917.[120] Use was reported as 6,942,000 imperial gallons (31,558,957 l) in the month of August 1918.[121] In 1931 the system was upgraded, with larger pipes and an 86 ft (26 m) tower on Ruakiwi Rd, holding 2,600,000 imp gal (11,819,834 l).[122] Until 1939 on Sundays visitors could climb the tower for 6d.[123] The old tower remained until about 1966.[124] A treatment works was built in 1923,[125] using candy filters and supplying water at 75psi.[118]

The 1930 Hillsborough Terrace Water Treatment Station had a maximum continuous capacity slightly over 30 Ml/day. By 1970 peak demands exceeded 45 Ml/day with the average annual daily demand being around 25 Ml/day, but the site was too small to expand. So Waiora Terrace Station, Glenview (opposite Hamilton Gardens), was commissioned in mid 1971. It was designed for a maximum capacity of 65 Ml/day, expandable to 190 Ml/day,[126] was increased to approximately 85ML/day with the addition of polymer dosing in the 1980s[127] and by 2010 had a capacity of 106 Ml/day.[114] It was built to a Patterson Candy design with coagulation, rapid sand gravity filtration and chlorine gas disinfection.[127]

Chlorine is added at 0.3 ppm and Fluoride has been added since 1966, though with a brief withdrawal in 2013/14 and referenda supporting it in 2006[128] and 2013.[129] The river water has 0.2 to 0.4 ppm[126] fluoride which is increased to around 0.75ppm[114] through the station. Arsenic in the Waikato River is also monitored. It can be about 3 times above the WHO limit, but treatment effects a 5-fold reduction to a level which meets the standards.[130]

From river level the water is pumped up to 8 reservoirs, which uses 410 kWh of power for each million litres of water pumped.[114] To cope with river levels below the intake pipes, a floating pumping platform was installed in 2016. It can pump up to 70 million litres a day.[131] Average use in 2010 was 224 litres per day per person. The 2006 population was 129,249, so total annual consumption was a bit over 10,000 million litres, using over 4 million kWh.[114] For maps and description of the distribution system see this 2001 HCC Strategic Planning document.


Sewage long lagged behind other utilities. Initially sections were large enough for septic tanks to work as well as they could in peatlands, but it wasn't long before the 1882 drainage scheme[125] was used for sewage connections. By 1904 complaints were being made about the blocked insanitary drain between Victoria and Anglesey Streets, resulting in a faltering start on a night soil service. The 1907 referendum, which approved purchase of the gasworks also agreed to raise a loan for sewage pipes (though rejected a plan for tramways).[115] By 1919 only about a third of the city had sewers,[132] but between 1923 and 1925 "considerable progress" was made and sewage reticulation was further extended in 1933. However, there was a sewage related epidemic in Melville in 1940 and Melville, Fairfield and Hillcrest were added to the sewer network from 1949. Although by 1956 80% of Hamilton had sewage pipes, it was only piped to 14 septic tanks (17 when replaced in 1976[133]), which were emptied several times a year, either into the Waitawhirwhiri Stream, or directly into the Waikato.[115] In 1956 the Pollution Advisory Council said, "the daily flow of sewage effluent and trade wastes from Hamilton City is three million gallons… in effect, partly digested sludge and raw sewage is being disposed of into the Waikato River". Downstream from Hamilton contaminants increased 10 times between the 1950s and the early 1970s.[134] The 1953 Water Pollution Act set up a Pollution Advisory Council, but it had no control powers until 1963.[135]

Pukete sewer bridge 165m long 14 m high built mid 1970s. Photo 2015.

In 1964 the Department of Health ordered adequate treatment for the sewage. Steven and Fitzmaurice, Consulting Engineers, presented a plan to Council early in 1966. There was some work on piping new areas in 1966, but work on the major trunks and interceptors didn't start until 1969 and building at Pukete sewage works started in January 1972. The first sewage was treated in July 1975 and was fully connected early in 1977.[133]

Prestressed concrete box girder bridge over Kirikiriroa Stream at Tauhara Gully. Photo 2015.

The trunk lines needed a 165 m (541 ft) long bridge, about 14 m (46 ft) above the Waikato, another prestressed concrete box girder bridge over Kirikiriroa Stream at Tauhara Gully and 2 steel pipe bridges over other gullies. The River bridge was designed by Murray-North Partners and the others by council engineers.[133]

The Pukete sewage works cost $12.5m ($160m at 2015 prices). It now cleans 40 million litres (11,000,000 US gal)/day, which is aerated for about 2 hours in a sedimentation tank, disinfected with chlorine, dechlorinated with sulphur dioxide and discharged into the Waikato through a diffuser outfall on the river bed.[136]

CH2M Beca, successor to the previous engineers, upgraded the plant from 1998 to 2002 to improve nitrogen, BOD and suspended solids levels, with a change from chlorination to UV treatment and biogas and natural gas 1.5 million watts (2,000 hp) cogeneration units, able to power the treatment processes and export surplus to the grid.[137]

A further 5 year upgrade started about 2009 expanding and improving the plant, including phosphorus removal.[138]

Despite the improvements there have been on-going problems. In 2012 the council was prosecuted for a sewage sludge spill[139] and consent conditions were breached in 2013 due to a bacterial problem.[96] In 2014 up to 800 m3 (180,000 imp gal) of untreated sewage got into the river.[140]

There are also problems with pumping stations. Out of over 130, up to 20 fail each month.[141]


Hamilton was also late in getting electricity. Reefton had electricity from 1888. Some Hamiltonians had their own dynamos from about 1912, the year the first licence was given for building lines and a generating plant in the Frankton Town Board area. It cost over £8,000 (about $1.25m in 2015 prices[142]) for the initial network, powered by two 45 kW (60 hp) DC Brush generators in Kent St, driven by two 4-cylinder 90 hp (67 kW) suction gas engines (suction gas engines used low pressure gas from coal[143]), which started on 23 April 1913 (officially opened by Prime Minister Massey on 4 June). Lighting was provided for streets, houses and the Empire Hotel in Frankton, initially only from 7.30am to 5pm, using a labourer, a meter reader and two linesmen. Electricity was sold at 10d (2015 equivalent $15) per kWh. The first Chief Electrical Engineer was Mr A Beale, followed by Lloyd Mandeno, (1913-1916) and Israel (Jack) Webster, who stayed for nearly 40 years. From May 1916, Hamilton was connected and, in 1917, the supply area was widened to a 5-mile radius and an 80 kW (110 hp) and then two more 45 kW (60 hp) sets were added at Kent St.[144] Despite this, by 1920, Frankton was unable to cope with demand. The mayor, P H Watts, proposed buying a second-hand steam plant for £17,000, but it was rejected at a poll on 23 April 1920. The mayor, 6 councillors and the electricity staff all resigned.[145]

The problem was resolved by a link to Horahora Power Station completed, like Frankton, in 1913. In 1919 it was bought by the government and, by 1921, an 11 kV AC line linked it to Hamilton.,[144] allowing the "noisy, smoky", Kent St power station to close in July 1922.[146]

There were over 1,500 connections in Hamilton by 1923. Undergrounding began in 1926, when the 11 kV cable was extended from Peachgrove Rd to Seddon Rd sub-station. By 1928 the Council had 3,381 consumers and charges were down to 6d per kWh for lighting and 2d per kWh for power and heating. By 1935 4,458 were connected, with 55 mi (89 km) of line and lighting was down another penny. By 1950, the 11 kV rings in Hamilton East and Claudelands were finished. Soon afterwards mercury vapor street lighting was installed in London Street and Norton Rd. 33kV gas- and oil-filled cables were laid from 1960 and switched on in April 1974. By 1987 there were 12,247 connections, 291 km (181 mi) of line and charges down to 6.577c/kWh[144] (about 13c in 2015 prices). In 2015 prices varied from 11.31 to 22.92 cents per kWh.[147]

Legislation in 1988 amalgamated the Central Waikato Electric Power Board with Hamilton's Electricity Division from April 1989 as Waikato Electricity Limited,[144] now known as WEL Networks,[148] one of the distribution companies.

Hamilton now has a 220kV link to the National Grid and Transpower provides for a peak load of 187MW, expected to rise to 216MW by 2030.[149]

Notable people

Sister cities

Hamilton has four sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:


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