Again, thank you for all the information. My phone is more unpredictable than a woman scorned, (I wrote a massive reply yesterday, which disappeared!) so I will make this post short and sweet.
My kids are 2 and 4 in December, so one of them is certainly getting closer to school age. Definitely something to take into consideration when choosing area. Having said that, I have lived in quite a few different places with my kids, and have realized that for me, location outweighs a more idyllic neighbourhood and a nicer home. Living central is crucial for us (since I don't yet drive), so I understand that we might have to pay more than anticipated for a more dodgy home. Home is where the heart is, so we will make it work, as per usual.
Just another question: Am I understanding it correctly in saying that the "heart" of the city is not actually the CBD (where the old town hall is), but rather around the Hamilton area?