Cambridge has more than 18,400 residents and is at the heart of the Waikato, the country’s fifth fastest growing province.
The town is part of Waipa District which has about 46,600 residents, split almost evenly between rural and urban households.
The Waipa District Council forecasts the district’s population will grow by 12% in the decade to 2022, and to 70,000 by the year 2050.
Cambridge’s population has increased significantly as its role as a rural services town has developed, and as improved roads have enabled people to live here and commute to jobs in nearby Hamilton and Tauranga. An estimated 20% of Cambridge residents work in Hamilton.
The town’s population has more than tripled in 50 years (from 5,284 in 1961).
The average age of Cambridge residents is 38, compared to the national average of 35. About 15% of locals were born outside of New Zealand (compared to 23% nationally).
We have slightly more women (51%) than men (49%) living here and the average household income (at the last Census) was $54,000, which is 6% more than the national average.
The town of Cambridge, as we know it now, had its origins in war.
In 1864, Imperial troops led by General Sir Duncan Cameron were fighting Waikato Maori who were resisting attempts by farmer settlers to force them to sell land.
The troops were being supplied by steam boats and Cameron’s 3rd Waikato Regiment needed a base beside the Waikato River. A camp site was identified and quickly built.
More than 800 soldiers lived at the garrison and the settlement became ‘Camp Cambridge’, named after Queen Victoria’s cousin, the Duke of Cambridge, who was commander in chief of the British army.
When hostilities ended, Cambridge became a market town. At first, it was a highway district administered by a board of trustees set up in 1868. It became a town district in 1882 and four years later was given borough status. At the time, it rivalled Hamilton as the Waikato’s main town.
Meanwhile, the settlement of Leamington was formed across the river, joined to Cambridge by the bridge built in 1871. Leamington was assigned its status as an independent town district in 1905.
More than 50 years later, the two communities decided to become one, and Leamington became part of the Borough of Cambridge in 1958.
Today, much of Cambridge reflects what happened in those early days. Many of the town’s exotic trees were planted in the 19th century, and some of its landmark buildings – such as St Andrew’s Anglican Church (1881) and the Cambridge Primary School (1879) – were built while it was a military settlement.
Cambridge’s history can be explored at the Cambridge Museum located in the Old Court House, 24 Victoria St. It’s open Monday – Friday between 10am and 4pm and Sunday 10am to 2pm.