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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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Dunedin City and its adjacent boroughs are treated elsewhere. In 1961 the Dunedin Urban Area contained approximately 60 per cent of Otago's total population, and it is the pre-eminent centre for trade and manufacturing in the region. Of all the urban areas it has had the lowest intercensal rate of increase in the post-war period and, not surprisingly, the growth of the labour force in manufacturing (1·33 per cent) and of the total force (5·89 per cent) has been extraordinarily low during 1953–61.

Despite Otago's large area, its rich and productive parts are relatively restricted and, without the push of a considerable pastoral development, Dunedin can hardly expect a reversal of the past population trends. It has the advantage of possessing a fine port, but its trade reflects the limitations of the region's economy. Inward cargo predominates; 320,972 tons of overseas traffic, mostly manures, motor spirits and oils, hardwood timbers, and 105,915 tons of coastal traffic. The overseas shipments account for 86,693 tons (frozen meat, 32,971 tons; wool, 26,837 tons) and outwards coastal traffic, mostly miscellaneous cargoes, 475,334 tons. The region furthermore has a considerable production of hydro-electric power and a large potential, but the trend, especially with the decision to lay the Cook Strait power cable, is to export the resource to other and more rapidly developing areas. With the installation of the last two machines the Roxburgh station, commissioned in 1956, will have an installed capacity of 320,000 kW which, combined with the 105,000-kW capacity for the Waitaki station (commissioned 1935), raises Otago's present figure to 425,000 kW. Two further stations on the Waitaki are under construction: Benmore, 540,000 kW, and Aviemore, circa 200,000 kW. Their combined installed capacity is equivalent to a little more than half the Waitaki potential and when in operation they will raise the region's capacity to 1·16 million kW. The Kaitangata coalfields in South Otago have a considerable reserve of semi-bituminous coals and lignites, but the total production of the Otago fields represented only 3·85 per cent of the 1960 total output and it has been declining since the 1920s.

Estimates of future population growth project an annual average rate of increase during the next two decades of 1 per cent for Eastern Otago and 0·5 per cent for Central Otago – rates which are 50 per cent and 75 per cent below the projected national rates. There is nothing in the region that leads one to dispute the accuracy of these projections. The impressive contribution made by Otago to the political, academic, and cultural life of the Dominion, the impression of abundance created by the golden decade, the resourcefulness and commercial abilities of its people, have in the past obscured the narrow basis of the region's economy. In relation to the population of the hinterland a further concentration of population in Dunedin region seems unlikely, unless the industries can find national markets for their products and overcome the costs of transport and distance. The region's pastoral and afforestation potential is noteworthy, but the path of development points towards further specialisation upon livestock products, especially meat and wool, and the intensification of production upon the most favoured lands throughout the region.

by Samuel Harvey Franklin, B.COM.GEOG., M.A.(BIRMINGHAM), Senior Lecturer, Geography Department, Victoria University of Wellington.

  • History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • N.Z. Journal of Agriculture, Vol. 88, Feb-Mar 1954, “Farming in New Zealand – Clutha County”
  • Ibid., Vol. 90, Feb 1955, “History of Fruitgrowing in Central Otago”, Kemp, W. S.; Ibid., Vol. 91, Jul-Aug 1954, “Farm Management Survey in Southern Maniototo Plain”; Ibid., Vol. 95, Dec 1957, “Farming in the Ida Valley – Central Otago”; Ibid., Vol. 104, Mar 1962, “Farming in Tuapeka County”, Sewell, T. G.;N.Z. Geographer, Vol. 8, Apr 1952, “Land Utilisation in Metropolitan Dunedin”, Tweedie, A. D.
  • Ibid., Vol. 9, Apr 1953, “Otago in 1871 – Life and Landscape”, Kibblewhite, M.; Ibid., Vol. 10, Oct 1954, “The Oamaru Tributary Regions”, Macauley, J. U.; Ibid., Vol. 17, Apr 1961, “Population and Settlements on the Otago Goldfield, 1861–70”, Forrest, J.; Ibid., Vol. 18, Oct 1962, “Alluvial Gold Mining in Otago, 1861–70 – a Regional Analysis”, Forrest, J.;Port of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1951).