Waikato is the name of a region in the North Island of New Zealand. Exact boundaries of the region depend largely on the use of the name, but in all cases it refers to an area around the city of Hamilton and extending along the banks of the Waikato River.
In the west, the region is bounded by the Tasman Sea. The coastal region is largely rough hill country, known locally as the Hakarimata Range, though it is more gently undulating in the north, closer to the mouth of the Waikato River. The coast is punctured by three large natural harbours: Raglan Harbour, Aotea Harbour, and Kawhia Harbour. The area around Raglan is noted for its volcanic black sand beaches, and also for its fine surfing conditions at Manu bay and Ruapuke beach.
To the east of the coastal hills lies the broad floodplain of the Waikato River. The region has a wet temperate climate, and the land is largely rich farmland, although it also contains undrained peat swamp. It is in the broad Waikato Plains that most of the region's population resides, and the land is intensively farmed with both livestock (mainly dairy cattle) and crops (such as maize). The area around Cambridge has many thoroughbred stables.
The north of the region around Te Kauwhata produces some of New Zealand's best wines. Several shallow lakes lie in this area, the largest of which is Lake Waikare.
To the east, the land rises towards the forested slopes of the Kaimai and Mamaku Ranges. The upper reaches of the Waikato River are used for hydroelectricity, and several large artificial lakes are found in the region's southeast.
The city of Hamilton is the major centre, with an urban population in 2006 of 158,500. It is home to Waikato University and Wintec. The towns of Tokoroa, Te Awamutu and Cambridge each have approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people in the actual townships and surrounding rural areas.
The region also includes the smaller towns of Huntly, Matamata, Morrinsville, Ngaruawahia, Otorohanga, Putaruru, Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Te Kuiti, and Tirau.
Other towns within the Waikato government region, but outside the normally accepted Waikato area, include Tuakau and Mercer, south of Auckland; Paeroa, Te Aroha, Thames, Whangamata, and Whitianga around the Thames Valley and Coromandel Peninsula; and the city of Taupo (population 22,300) and town of Turangi in the southeast.
The people of the Waikato occasionally use the nickname Mooloo to apply to themselves or to their province, particularly in relation to sporting endeavours. The word was likely first applied to the Waikato provincial rugby team. Its origin is related to the mascot of a pantomime-like milking cow used in parades, public events and sports matches — particularly rugby, reflecting the importance of the dairy industry to the region. Waikato hosts the Chiefs Super 14 rugby team and Waikato provincial rugby team at Waikato Stadium and the Northern Districts Knights in domestic cricket at Seddon Park, both in Hamilton.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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