Forty percent of New Zealand's total population - that's nearly 1.5 million people - lives within a 242km (150-mile) radius of the Waikato district. First settled by the Maori, who recognized its agricultural potential and appreciated its temperate climate, the Waikato is rich in natural resources and is a leading food producer. Its biggest natural asset is the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand.
The seaside townships of Tauranga, Te Puke, the mural town of Katikati, and Mount Maunganui (one of the country's most popular beach resorts) are the main components of the Bay of Plenty. Forget woolly sheep and start thinking fuzzy kiwifruit, because that's what this area is famous for. The area grows 80% of the country's export kiwifruit crop. It's also a place of mellow summers; great surf and beaches; big game fishing; long, lazy holidays; and the biggest retired population in the country. It literally is a bay of plenty. It is also one of the six pilot participants in the Environmentally Sustainable Tourism Project, dedicated to improving the environmental performance of local tourism operators.