On account of the beauty of its landscape and the vitality of the gold-rush period, together with a disturbing history of land use, it is difficult to resist concentrating the attention upon Central Otago. But these attractions ought never to obscure the fact that for many decades the population and the wealth of Otago have been concentrated in the eastern coastal parts. A highly productive zone of mixed farming similar to that pursued in the Canterbury Plains surrounds Oamaru. The population of the town increased by 53·08 per cent in the period 1951–61, but, as the figures for the Oamaru Employment District suggest, the growth was more influenced by the expansion of tertiary services consequent upon the growth of farming incomes rather than by industrial expansion, and it was also affected in the building and construction sector by the development of the hydro-electric resources of the Waitaki River. The labour force increased by 28·35 per cent in the period 1953–61 and the labour force engaged in manufacturing by 15·38 per cent.
South of Waitaki County and north of the Dunedin region the land is hilly with lowland restricted to the area surrounding Palmerston (population, 1961, 868) and to a few valley bottoms. The area is not highly productive, and its rates of growth for sheep and lambs shorn in the past decade have been below the regional average, whilst its population figures have shown a continuous decline during the past 50 years.