To journey south from Auckland into the green Waikato basin is to travel a highway created by war.
The busy Great South Rd between Auckland and Hamilton following the curves of New Zealand’s greatest river, began as a military road built to assert British authority and to challenge the Maori.
Horse-drawn gun carriages and amunition wagons used the riverside road after it had been leveled by the boots of tramping infantry.
From fortified hills Maori defenders of the region looked down on the invading British regiments backed by menacing gunboats.
The Waikato was the setting for the largest and most formal war between Maori and Europeans in the nineteenth century. Today fast roads slice through battle sites and scenes of slaughter are grazed by sleek dairy herds
The land defended bitterly by the Maori now displays the richest of pastoral panoramas. However, hardly a hint of old conflicts seem to remain.
There are nearly three dairy cows for each of its two hundred and fifty thousand people, as well as beef, cattle, sheep, thoroughbred horses, deer and goats.
At the centre of the region is New Zealand’s greatest inland city. Hamilton has a distinct and affluent urban identity; it is no satellite of Auckland, though little more than a hundred kilometres south.