The success of the Waikato region starts at the grass roots. Since pre-European
days, when Maori populated the region growing a wide range of crops using the Waikato
River for transportation and communications, the wealth of the Waikato has come from what
From grasslands to forests, Waikato brings $3.2 billion into the New Zealand
economy, making it the biggest export region in the country. Manufacturing and service
industries developed to complement this agricultural base contribute to a thriving local
Farming is changing to a high-tech business with emphasis on quality control and
stringent hygiene standards. With the move from commodities to niche markets, beef in
particular is being processed in high-value cuts to Asian specifications. Horticulture,
too, sees an Asian influence, with such high-value crops such as asparagus being grown for
Japan as part of a drive over the next 10 years to increase market share in Asia.
Farms make up about half the business units in the Waikato region, employing
around one fifth of the workforce. Twelve thousand dairy farms make up 40 percent of the
farming area, with an average herd size of 200 cows. The estimated value of agricultural
output from this farming area increased by 48 percent between 1987 and 1990 -- well above
the 32 percent increase for New Zealand as a whole.
Forestry stands tall as a major contributor to the region's growth and
development. Approximately 11 percent of the region's area is covered in plantation
forests, with 3 percent of the trees ready for harvesting. This latter figure is projected
to rise to 16 percent by the year 2000, and to 76 percent between 2000 and 2020.
With a significant amount of primary produce going outside the region for
processing, potential exists for the expansion of processing facilities. To implement
this, a broadly based infrastructure already exists, supported by a stable workforce.