|Otago Regional Council|
|Name:||Otago Regional Council|
June 2007 estimate
|Land Area:||31,241 km²|
|Cities and Towns|
|Towns:||Alexandra, Balclutha, Brighton, Cromwell, Ettrick,Frankton, Kaitangata, Lawrence, Middlemarch, Milton, Moeraki, Mosgiel, Oamaru, Palmerston, Queenstown, Ranfurly, Roxburgh, Waikouaiti, Wanaka|
|Constituent Territorial Authorities|
|Names:|| Dunedin City|
Central Otago District
Queenstown Lakes District
Waitaki District (part)
The name "Otago" is an old southern Maori word whose North Island dialect equivalent is "Otakou", introduced to the south by Europeans in the 1840s. "Otago" is also the old name of the European settlement on the Otago Harbour, established by the Weller Brothers in 1831.The place later became the focus of the Otago Association, an offshoot of the Free Church of Scotland, notable for its high-minded adoption of the principle that ordinary people should choose their ministers, not the landowner.
Major centres of what is now the Otago Region of the old province, [include Dunedin (the principal city of the region), Oamaru (made famous by Janet Frame), Balclutha, Alexandra, and the major tourist centres Queenstown and Wanaka. Kaitangata in South Otago provides a prominent coal source. The Waitaki and Clutha rivers also provide for much of the country's hydroelectric power. Some parts of the area originally covered by Otago Province are now administered as part of Southland Region (qv).
The Central Otago area produces award winning wines made from varieties such as the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Riesling grapes. Central Otago has an increasing reputation as New Zealand’s leading pinot noir region.
The region is administered by the Otago Regional Council.
Initial settlement concentrated on port and city, then expanded, notably to the south-west, where the fertile Taieri Plains offered good farmland. The 1860s saw rapid commercial expansion after Gabriel Read discovered gold at Gabriel's Gully near Lawrence, and the Central Otago goldrush ensued. Veterans of goldfields in California and Australia, plus many other fortune-seekers from Europe, North America and China poured into the then Province of Otago, swamping its Scottish Presbyterian character. Further gold discoveries at Clyde and on the Arrow River round Arrowtown led to a boom, and Otago became for a period the cultural and economic centre of New Zealand. New Zealand's first daily newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, originally edited by Julius Vogel, dates from this period.
The Province of Southland separated from Otago Province and set up its own Provincial Council at Invercargill in 1861. After difficulties ensued, Otago re-absorbed it in 1870, but for local government purposes Southland is a separate region.
Provincial government in New Zealand ceased in 1876, and the national limelight gradually shifted northwards. The colony divided itself into counties in 1876, two in Otago being named after the Scottish independence heroes Wallace and Bruce.
Beginning in the west, the geography of Otago consists of high alpine mountains. The highest peak in Otago is Mount Aspiring, which is on the Main Divide. From the high mountains the rivers discharge into large glacial lakes. In this part of Otago glacial activity - both recent and very old - dominates landscapes, with large 'U' shaped valleys and rivers which have high sediment loads. River flows also vary dramatically, with large flood flows occurring after heavy rain. Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea form the sources of the Clutha, the largest river (by discharge) in New Zealand. The Clutha flows through Otago and discharges near Balclutha.
Travelling east from the mountains, the Central Otago drylands predominate. These are dominated by the block mountains; upthrust schist mountains. Compared to Canterbury, where the Northwest winds blow across the plains without interruption, in Otago the block mountains impede and dilute the effects of the Nor'wester.
The main Central Otago Centres, such as Alexandra and Cromwell, are found in the intermontane basins between the block mountains. The schist bedrock influence extends to the eastern part of Otago where remnant volcanics mark its edge. The remains of the most spectacular of these are the Miocene volcanics centred on Otago Harbour. Elsewhere, basalt outcrops can be found along the coast and at other sites.