The Waikato-Hauraki region ranks as the first livestock region of the North Island. In 1952 it contained 13·41 per cent of the total North Island livestock units and, although one of the most intensively farmed regions, was estimated to have a “readily obtainable” potential to increase its carrying capacity by 35 per cent in the period 1948–75, which, if attained, would leave it, despite the relative advancement of the Central Plateau, still the leading North Island region. During the past decade, 1951-61, the number of sheep shorn has increased by 32·8 per cent and lambs shorn by 86·57 per cent, both rates of growth being above the respective national levels of 29·81 per cent and 6673 per cent. More impressive, as it was against the general trend, was the increase in cows in milk, 6·84 per cent, an increase registered in Waikato, Waipa, Piako, and Matamata counties, but hardly in Hauraki Plains and not at all in Raglan, which is unimportant for dairying. The region has the highest average production of butterfat per cow, 279·4 lb, and accounts for one in every four cows in milk in the whole of New Zealand.
Any traveller in the region soon appreciates the reasons behind Hamilton's importance and growth. In the first place the area which the city serves is a large and prosperous one with a potential for development that in absolute terms is very considerable. Secondly, travel by car within the region is rapid and easy so that Hamilton has benefited from the centralising effects of the motorcar, its growth having coincided largely with the motor age. In 1911 Hamilton borough numbered 4,655 persons, whereas Palmerston North possessed 10,991 inhabitants and Napier 10,537. By 1936, Hamilton's population had reached 16,150 and had surpassed Napier's, but Palmerston North, with 22,202, remained in the lead. By 1961, however, Hamilton was well ahead. The city contains many of the branch offices of banks and insurance companies and a number of Government Departments. Victoria Street offers a well-stocked retail shopping centre. Industry has been attracted to the area and the growing regional importance of the city is attested to by the establishment of an autonomous University of Waikato.
In the period 1953–61 the numbers employed in manufacturing have increased by 28·91 per cent, a rate above the national level. But the total labour force increased by 15·18 per cent, which is below the national rate of increase of 18·24 per cent. Farming remains the principal industry of the region, accounting for 28·61 per cent of the employment. Although 17·2 per cent of the labour force is engaged in manufacturing, this is below the figure for other agricultural districts, such as the Manawatu, which has 22·87 per cent in manufacturing. The increase amongst the Maoris has been remarkably high, 63 per cent, especially in the towns; and the region appears to have experienced marked in-migration. The increase has been general, though the rate of growth in the urban centres, 216·5 per cent, far outstrips the rural rate of 35·62 per cent. The Maori population of Hamilton rose from 594 in 1951 to 1790 in 1961, and that of Tokoroa from 88 to 845.