Green, wealthy and connected are the three words Prime Minister Bill English used to describe the Waikato.

English spoke to members of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton Central Business Association about development opportunities for the region on Thursday.

On the topic of connectedness, English said he is very pleased that Government gave in to Waikato MPs' persistent lobbying back in the mid-2000s over the Waikato Expressway.

The region is taking its opportunities, he said.

"I have been quite surprised to see the growth in the smaller towns outside of Hamilton.

"Hamilton has been growing, but the smaller places, subdivisions and some places like Cambridge are as busy as anything.

"It is a good feel."

Part of the real pleasure of the job, is getting around to see the confidence in the broader communities, English told the crowd.

"Hamilton, I would have to say, is in a bit of a sweet spot for the expression of that confidence.

"It doesn't have quite the same infrastructure challenges as Auckland but it's getting the dynamism and it's fantastic to see."

The PM spent Thursday morning visiting a couple of the city's businesses, including Loop Technologies, a company that specialises in electronic repairs.

"I had no idea they were there, I had no idea about their niche that they got really good at.

"It was really impressive to see it – that's what makes the economy great."

English said Hamilton has got energy and development, the next big step will be whether the city gets a portion of the government's Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Hamilton City Council has applied for a slice of the $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, for a development in Peacocke

Council has a very sensible, well-funded, well-specified, low-cost bid that would help them do it, English said.

"The money would help pay for infrastructure that's going to bring that development forward."

When questions were  opened to the audience at Thursday's gathering, English was asked what his thoughts were on the University of Waikato's decision to downsize its Faculty of Arts department.

"I personally wish more students would do English degrees," he responded.

"I understand there is some sort of restructuring going on at the university and I certainly would not make a comment on that.

"In the end, universities have to be sustainable organisations, while they are government-funded, they are driven to a certain extent by the preferences of the students, and we would expect if they are running out of students, they need to change."

English said he often hears from employers that they want critical skills.

"I wish more kids would take those courses because they are more useful than they realise."

On Friday, English is taking a trip out to the Huntly bypass.

Most people have no idea how big of a project this is because they can't see it, he said.

"You can now imagine the world with four lanes from Auckland.

"You are going to be this much closer with Auckland and Tauranga in the golden triangle, in that sense, you are fortunate compared to parts of the country where getting acess to that kind of energy and growth is pretty difficult."


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