New Zealand is a country rich in mythological tales. Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud) is claimed to have started with Maui, an ancient Maori warrior who fished the North Island (Te Ika A Maui) from his boat, Te Waipounamu - the Maori name for the South Island.

But there's one myth encouraged by modern-day New Zealanders that has left one Kiwi laughing off some cutting jokes. There's nothing to do in Hamilton, according to comics and sceptics.

Hamilton is New Zealand's fourth-largest city with a population of just over 140,000 according to the 2013 census. The city will host three matches during the World Cup - South Africa play Zimbabwe, India play Ireland, and New Zealand host Bangladesh.

Hamilton's heritage dates back to 1864, where the town was developed at an abandoned Maori site named Kirikiriroa.

Despite being the largest in the agricultural hub of the Waikato region, the town, once labelled as "The City of the Future", has long been a target for would-be comedians and, to an extent, politicians. Such was the level of friendly banter directed at the city that a satirical political party campaigned in the 2014 national election with a pledge to severe ties with Hamilton and force it into a self-governed city.

This from the Civilian Party's website:

"If every household in New Zealand used energy efficient light bulbs, we'd save the same amount of energy that Hamilton uses in a whole year. So instead of using energy efficient bulbs, why not get rid of Hamilton?"

It was an extreme take on the old joke of Hamilton's seeming lack of appeal. But why are there such cutting remarks about the city?

Hamilton's World Cup Ambassador, Councillor Rob Pascoe, says the jokes are a "hangover" from the city's agricultural heritage.

"A lot of outsiders seem to think we're little more than a cow town full of yokels," Pascoe said.

"The funny and ironic thing is that agriculture is an absolutely vital part of our economy, and we embrace it. We're an economic powerhouse."

Mayor Julie Hardaker says the jokes also stem from something else. "Look, it's jealousy," she says. "Everyone who lives and visits knows Hamilton's got it all."

Those in the Council Chambers aren't the only Hamiltonians who have a good enough sense of humour to let it pass them by. Batsman Daryl Mitchell was born in Hamilton and has plied his trade with Northern Knights since 2011. He plays alongside a number of Hamiltonians, including BJ Watling and Anton Devcich.

"Obviously it probably gets a bit of a bad rap for what a great place it is," the 23-year-old said. "It's like most cities - a lot of people say there's not a lot to do and stuff like that, but you're only an hour away from the beach and it's pretty nice weather up here, so you can't complain too much."

Mitchell savours any time off by hitting up one of the Hamilton caf s with some of the local Knights lads or unwinding in the internationally renowned Hamilton Gardens.

This international attraction includes floral tributes to Indian, Chinese and Italian gardens. It's estimated that some 1 million people visit the gardens a year - not bad for a city whose population is just over 10% of that figure.

But flora and fauna aren't Hamilton's only natural features. The Waikato River flows through the city and there are a number of stunning cycle trails throughout Hamilton and the Waikato region.

For Mitchell, one of the benefits of growing up in Hamilton at an early age was his early exposure to the depth of sporting ability in the city.

"I think school-wise early on it was good for me. There was a pretty sporty culture. Hamilton schools are pretty dominant at rugby and cricket, so you sort of grow up with a ball in your hand, which you maybe can't do in other cities."

The city's sporting success has seen the Knights feature in the Champions League cricket tournament, while the local rugby side claimed the 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby titles. Mayor Hardaker expects the passion for sport to be on show come February, when the tournament kicks into gear in her city.

"Hamilton and the Waikato are known for being sports mad and we do sport really well here," she says. "Pulling off a great tournament and getting feedback that everyone had a great time will do it for me."

Sport aside, Hamilton is also an ideal hunting ground for tourists looking to get a taste of Hobbiton, the focal point for Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, located 40km north east.

If searching for the one ring to rule them all isn't for you, Mitchell has another recommendation. "You're an hour away from Raglan or the Mount and over the summer period you get out as much as you can. We head out there and just chill out, which is nice over the summer time."

Hamilton is a city that boasts one of the world's top gardens. It's also a central base for sporting, movie and fitness buffs. Are there grounds for the city to be labelled a lifeless one? Far from it, according to Councillor Pascoe.

"There's more to Hamilton and Waikato than cows and butter, I assure you!"