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One of the richest agricultural and pastoral areas of the world, the Waikato is home to New Zealand’s famous dairy and thoroughbred horse racing industries and base for many agri-businesses and research institutes.

Map showing Waikato region

  1. Waikato

The area was named after New Zealand’s longest river. The Waikato River winds 425 kilometres from Lake Taupo on the Central Plateau to the Tasman sea. 

The region’s largest city is Hamilton, with a population of over 141,000 New Zealand’s fourth largest city, lies about an hour and a half’s drive south of Auckland.


Population 2018 Census


% born outside NZ:


Average house price
June 2020:

Thames-Coromandel $785,649
Hauraki $435,867
Matamata-Piako $494,461
Hamilton City $616,316
Waikato $523,361
Waitomo $244,653
South Waikato $272,771
Waipa $612,839
Otorohanga $362,747
Taupo $550,567

Median wage



Hamilton is spoilt for choice for places to relax and enjoy. The city is home to some of the most spectacular gardens in the country, including the international award-winning Hamilton Gardens, an internationally recognised zoo, one of New Zealand’s largest aquatic centres, and world-class international sports stadiums and event facilities.

Extensive walkways and cycleways link our residential areas to the beautiful Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, which flows right through the city. Hamilton’s south end boasts an arts and cultural precinct, with inspiring exhibitions at the Waikato Museum, music and theatre, and an impressive selection of cafés, bars and award-winning restaurants. 

Hamilton’s proximity to the ports of both Auckland and Tauranga, close access to two airports (Auckland and Hamilton) and strategic location on the road and rail networks provide significant opportunities for export and import.

Before European settlement, the Waikato was heavily populated by Māori. Today, Hamilton is diverse, home to over 80 ethnic groups. It is also a relatively ‘young city’ with around half its residents under 30 years old.


Waikato district offers, relaxed, peaceful living. The rural tranquillity and views of farmland and bush are making it increasingly popular for lifestyle living.

In contrast, Hamilton City is vibrant and diverse. It features some of the most spectacular gardens in the country, one of our largest aquatic centres, an internationally recognised zoo, world class sport and event facilities plus an extensive network of walkways and cycle ways linking with the Waikato River. Around Hamilton airport, there is a vibrant aviation community which includes pilot training organisations and aviation maintenance.

There is a lively social scene with many cafes, bars and restaurants and the city hosts a number of hallmark events including Balloons of Waikato and the Gallagher Great Race. On the coast, Raglan is a mecca for surfers, and along the river fishing and boating are popular.

Economy and industry

Dairying and agricultural bio-technology drive the Waikato’s economy, supported by thoroughbred horse breeding and training, forestry and coal mining.

Fonterra, the world leading dairy products supplier, is based here and Hamilton hosts the National Agricultural Fieldays, the largest agricultural tradeshow in the Southern Hemisphere.

Many of New Zealand’s leading agri-science research facilities are based in the Waikato and R&D is a key contributor to the economy. The electric fence and aerial top dressing are just two of the innovations to come from the region.

Education is another important sector, including a major University, a teacher’s college, technical institute hospital and nurse training.

Read the Working in Dairy Farming guide


The Waikato region is mild and temperate with moderate rainfall. Daily maximum temperatures in Hamilton range between 22-26°C in January and February and 10-15°C in July and August.

Summer temperatures occasionally reach 28°C, while on clear winter mornings temperatures may drop to as low as −3°C.

Low-lying areas experience regular morning fog.

Top five migrant populations (2018 Census)

Many migrants have already made the Waikato home. The table below shows where these migrants are moving from and demonstrates the diverse population you can expect to find in the Waikato.

It can be comforting to know there are others, similar to you, who have experienced the move.

Country of origin and no. of migrants for each country

Country of origin

No. of migrants


29,783 (6.5%)

UK and Ireland

23,368 (5.1%)

Middle East and Africa 10,539 (2.3%)
Pacific Islands 8,248 (1.8%)
Australia 7,331 (1.6%)

Now that you know about what the Waikato has to offer, have a read about everyday life in the region, and services and support you can access.

In this section

Upcoming events in your region

Events for new migrants are regularly held throughout the country. Gain local insight into finding a job and getting setup and settled in New Zealand.

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