Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Māori) is the centre of New Zealand's fourth largest urban area, and Hamilton City is the country's fourth largest territorial authority. Hamilton is in the Waikato Region of the North Island, approximately 130 km (80 mi) south of Auckland. It sits at a major road and rail nexus in the centre of the Waikato basin, on both banks of the Waikato River.
Initially an agricultural service centre, it now has a growing and diverse economy and is the second fastest growing urban area in New Zealand. 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 scientists.
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, and several pā 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.
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. 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.