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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Development of a Port

The motto of the Otago Harbour Board, “By ships we live”, typifies the reliance of Dunedin City and the Otago Province on the port. The port of Otago consists of an upper and lower harbour. Port Chalmers, which 100 years ago was the only deep-water port, is situated at the head of the lower harbour, and as well as being able to accommodate large overseas vessels, has two graving docks which provide repair facilities for shipping. Within a few years of the founding of the province, the settlers set about the problem of improving the harbour entrance, deepening the channel to Port Chalmers, and dredging a new channel (Victoria) to Dunedin itself. These efforts to create a first-class port have been highly successful, as the following table shows:

Depth of Water at Berths at Port of Otago, 1963
Port Chalmers
Mean low-water spring: 33 ft.
Mean range of tide: 4 ft 3 in. at neaps; 6 ft at springs.
Mean low-water spring: 26 ft.
Mean range of tide: 4 ft 5 in. at neaps; 6 ft at springs.
Mean low-water spring: 20–28 ft.
Mean range of tide: 4 ft 5 in. at neaps; 6 ft at springs.

Today the upper harbour port at Dunedin captures some 78 per cent of the total cargo tonnage handled. The following figures are for the year ended 31 December 1964. Imports totalled 465,954 tons and exports 162,335 tons, carried by 615 ships, of which 47 per cent were overseas vessels. The three major overseas imports were petroleum products, 94,087 tons; manures, rock phosphate, etc., 86,003 tons; and iron and steel, 29,501 tons. The two chief exports were the primary products, wool, 31,008 tons, and frozen meat, 33,640 tons. Dunedin is the main wool centre of the South Island.