The Waikato is simply New Zealand’s best business and lifestyle location. The district is one of the country’s fastest growing places and is rich in natural resources and vital infrastructure. The region is a major centre of primary production and is the fourth largest regional economy in the country.

The Waikato has New Zealand’s easiest access to international ports and a productive capacity that drives the whole New Zealand economy.

Best of all, the Waikato is a welcoming place. The district is open to new business, new investment, new people and new cultures. As a place to establish and grow a business opportunity - large or small - it’s hard to go past the Waikato advantage.

The Waikato Advantage >>

Economic Performance >>

Standard of Living>>

Key Drivers of our Economy>>

The Waikato advantage

Waikato is New Zealand’s premier location for business and is experiencing significant investment interest and business growth.

Waikato is at the heart of the golden triangle, easy accessible to export markets - Image by Dave Taylor

The Waikato is centred in the ‘Golden Triangle’ between New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, its fourth largest city Hamilton and the port city of Tauranga. Its abundance of natural resources means the Waikato generates significant exports.

Supporting the import and export industries is the upcoming Waikato Freight Hub, the inland intermodal development of Ports of Auckland Limited. POAL purchased 33ha of industrial land at Northgate Business Park in February 2016  to develop the multimillion dollar hub which will form a key connection in their national supply chain network.The Northgate Business Park has attracted a number of import/export customers due to its outstanding road and rail access. For more information about available land at Horotiu, visit the Northgate Business park website here.

Ports of Auckland website

Tainui Group Holdings website

Port of Tauranga website

Northgate Park website

Auckland International Airport is around 30 minutes drive from Pokeno in the north and 90 minutes drive from Tamahere in the south of the district. Hamilton Airport is within seven minutes of Tamahere and 70 minutes drive from Pokeno.

Hamilton is the region’s major city and is a fast-growing research, tertiary education and manufacturing hub, much of it linked to the Waikato’s primary production capability. The Waikato region accounts for approximately 8.5 percent of New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP) – around NZ$17.9 billion.

The National Freight Demand Study undertaken in 2013 predicts that by 2042, New Zealand's freight task will increase by 58 percent in tonnes, and by 48 percent in tonne-kilometres. Most of this freight will past through the Waikato district via the primary transport corridors - the Waikato Expressway and the North Island Main Trunk. The NIMT railway line runs through the Waikato district and the nation's most important road and rail corridors traverse the district, offering advantages to businesses needing fast national and international connectivity. Almost a quarter of land-based national freight movements in New Zealand either travel within, to, from or through the Waikato region.

Waikato Regional Council - Freight in the Waikato study

New Zealand Transport Agency website - North Island freight

The Waikato is also a major corridor for natural gas, telecommunications and data.

Gas Association New Zealand website

The Waikato region is also the most important mineral-producing region in New Zealand with mineral exploration and development operations including coal, aggregates and iron-sand.

It is also a premier area for electricity generation and the district hosts important electricity infrastructure, critical to New Zealand. The country’s largest thermal generator is located on the banks of the Waikato River in Huntly.

Genesis Energy website

Te Uku wind farm near Raglan is a 28-turbine farm that can generate enough renewable energy each year to fuel around 28,000 average New Zealand homes.

Meridian Energy website - Te Uku

In terms of lifestyle, it’s hard to beat the Waikato district’s clean air, beaches, farmland and affordable land and housing. And the Waikato has great neighbours. To the north is Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and economic powerhouse and a huge resource in terms of markets, labour, infrastructure and more. To the south is Hamilton, New Zealand’s fourth largest city and home to major research institutions. Closer to home, Waikato District Council actively works to encourage, support and sustain business and investment initiatives, both large and small. For more information, please see Strategy.

Economic performance

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the size and health of a country’s economy and standard of living. It is a calculation of the monetary value of finished goods and services produced. GDP includes consumer spending, government spending, investments and exports minus imports.

According to Statistics New Zealand, it is expected that the GDP for the ‘Golden Triangle’ (the area between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga which includes the Waikato district) will increase by 83 percent by 2025. Waikato district’s real GDP in 2012 was $2.3 billion, 1 percent of New Zealand’s total GDP. In 2016, Waikato district’s GDP grew by 2.1 percent.

For more district economic information please see our Economic Profile. 

Statistics New Zealand provides information releases of the performance of the economy.

Standard of living

In 2016, the Waikato district’s median annual earnings of NZ$53,420 was slightly lower than the New Zealand average. 

Although the earnings are lower than the median, they are actually higher than most other rural-based districts across New Zealand. The relative cost of housing (including rental housing) is lower than the New Zealand average, making accommodation more affordable.

Key drivers of our economy

The Waikato is the fourth-largest regional economy in New Zealand, accounting for approximately 10 per cent of total land area and population and 10 percent of gross domestic product.

In terms of economic potential, the district’s location is a major advantage. By 2019, the Waikato Expressway will be complete, offering a world-class road corridor between New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland to the north and Cambridge in the south.

The district is positioned in New Zealand’s ‘Golden Triangle’, nationally considered a major growth area and a driver for the national economy. The Waikato’s competitive land costs, soil quality, availability of prime land and ease of transportation to and from Auckland are major investment attractions.

The productive capacity of the Waikato district, and particularly its importance as a centre of primary production, underpins the wealth, economic capacity and quality of life of the greater region as a whole.

The district contains major energy resources and, along with primary production, are an important driver of economic activity. But the Waikato also has a number of added-value processing industries, such as dairy, meat and timber processing that contribute to the district’s economic vibrancy.

Domestic and international visitor arrivals continue to increase. In 2016, visitors spent NZ$112 million in the Waikato district. The importance of research to the wider economy is boosted by the close proximity of world-class research institutions like AgResearch, the University of Waikato and Waikato Innovation Park. 

NBR Special Report - Spotlight on Waikato

September 2015

Click here to access this report


Industry sectors

Waikato’s economy is robust and growing, underpinned by a number of key industries including agriculture, electricity generation, mining and manufacturing. The district is rich in natural resources and vital infrastructure and a significant contributor to the Waikato region.


Nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s total population lives within a 150km radius of the Waikato district. The Waikato Expressway connects the population of Auckland (1.57 million) with the greater Waikato, meaning almost 2 million people are in close proximity. This provides a ready-made consumer market plus additional resources including labour and specialist skills.

Economic facts

Infometrics delivers economic information, research, analysis and forecasts that can assist businesses and other organisations in making their policy, planning and strategic decisions.


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