25 Aug 2014

Hamilton celebrates 150 years

9:55 am on 25 August 2014

A teenager about to enter into adulthood is how Hamilton Mayor Julie Haraker describes her city as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Hamilton's town centre.

Hamilton's town centre. Photo: PHOTO NZ

In August, 1864 the fourth Waikato Militia came ashore at Kirikiriroa to establish the first European settlement and named it Hamilton.

Yesterday, a civic ceremony was held to mark the occasion.

Dignitaries gathered in civic square on a beautiful day to launch the city's sesquicentennial celebrations.

In the presence of the Maori King, Tuheitia, Ms Hardaker said she acknowledged that while Europeans had been here for 150 years, Maori had inhabited the rich food growing land from many hundreds of years earlier.

A statue in civic square Hamilton of Captain John Hamilton who the city is named after.

A statue in civic square Hamilton of Captain John Hamilton who the city is named after. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The city was named after Captain John Hamilton, a Royal Navy officer who served at the Battle of Gate Pa but never set foot in the militia town that was to bear his name.

Ms Hardaker said the 150th anniversary was a coming of age for the city and its future bodes well.

"I think the next decade is well and truly going to be a great one for our city. We are economically very strong, the future is looking really good that way. It's a great place to live, we have all the trappings of a big city, but we are not really big, and I think that is what people really love."

She said the secret of the city's success was its people.

"We came from people who were from pretty hard stock and I think throughout the decades when you look back on some of the things we did, that innovative culture was always there. We have been first in a number of things and I think that has been inbred in all Hamiltonians now. We are quite quiet about the ways we go about doing things, but when you look at our history, very successful."

A song for Hamilton's 150th birthday was written and performed by children from Woodstock School.

A former Mayor of Hamilton, Margaret Evans said the city's provincial and conservative feel had helped in its success.

"Which means that although we are innovative, we never go too far and that means we constantly have a solidness here that maybe other places don't have."

To mark the occasion the Hamilton City Council struck a medal to be awarded to a distinguished citizen each year.

The inaugural recipient of the Hamilton Medal is John Gallagher, a businessman, philanthropist and community leader.

Mr Gallagher believes the city will continue to grow.

"The university's growing (Waikato), Wintec is growing (Waikato Institute of Technology), so as a major education centre you have that sort of thing happening. The arts are expanding and growing, so there are a lot of things here and you can kind of live all your life here and not go out of the city. All those sort of things, even water ski on the Waikato River if you want to."

Hamilton.

Hamilton. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Margaret Hodgson is a descendant of two early Hamilton families, the Steeles and the Hayes.

She grew up in Hamilton but now lives in Auckland and said she was impressed each time she returned.

"It is very pretty, I think it has progressed, the motorways, it's amazing how quickly you get from Auckland. I think it's very vibrant. We used to live in Hillcrest and we saw the development of the university there. It's an amazing place."

Mayor Julie Hardaker said that even though Hamilton had been the butt of a few jokes from time to time, it stemmed from ignorance about the place.

"When people come here, particularly in the last four or five years, and understand all the things that go on here, people really do take away a different view. We have a lifestyle here that I think is the envy of many people."

The Hamilton 150th birthday party will continue for the rest of the year, culminating in a big party in November.