The Waikato District
The progress of settlement followed a different course in the Waikato district. At first small European holdings were established and the Maoris themselves became practised farmers, planting fruit trees and selling their wheat to the settlers and to Auckland. At the conclusion of the Maori Wars land was confiscated by the Government and about 3,000 former militia men were established on farms of 50 or more acres. The dairy industry was first promoted during the nineties, after a period when mixed farming was undertaken.
The boundaries of the Waikato are less neatly delimited than those of the Hauraki Plains. The main and central part of the area lies along the wide valley of the Waikato River, especially in the section between Cambridge and Ngaruawahia, but a considerable area of farming land, as important as the previous section, extends far southwards towards Te Kuiti along the valley of the Waipa and other tributaries of the Waikato. Dairy farming is pre-eminent, though fat lambing is also important. There are large areas of undrained swamp in the north near Mercer, Hamilton, and Te Awamutu; and a number of shallow lakes which find an outlet through the swamps. The largest, such as Lake Wakare and Lake Whangape, are near to Huntly, but small ones are to be found near Ngaruawahia and in the vicinity of Hamilton. The landscape derives much from the characteristic features of a dairy farming area. But the addition of the broad Waikato River itself, the more gently rolling character of the landforms, the occasional peak or ridge of volcanic rock or greywacke which breaks the line of the horizon, combine to create a landscape more diverse than that of the Hauraki Plains. The region is serviced by a number of market centres, principally Cambridge (5,290), a fast growing town, and Te Awamutu (5,425). Otorohanga serves the most southernmost districts. Hamilton's functions are of regional importance.