Rising in the Lammerlaw Range, the Taieri River flows north to the Maniototo Plains, eastward around the north end of Rock and Pillar Range, and then south across Strath-Taieri distrct and Taieri Plains to enter the sea on the east coast of Otago, 18 miles south of Dunedin. Up stream and down stream from Taieri Plains the river flows through narrow, deeply incised valleys, but throughout most of its length of 125 miles it meanders widely through pastoral country. It is navigable by launches from its mouth up stream as far as Henley. Major tributaries include the Serpentine Creek, Sowburn, Wetherburn, Kyeburn, Nenthorn Streams, and Waipori River. The river is linked with twosmall shallow lakes; Lake Waihola, 20 miles south of Dunedin, is a holiday and boating resort, and Taieri Lake lies near Waipiata in the Maniototo district. Major floods include one in 1868 of 77,000 cusecs at Outram Groge, and another in July 1955 of 38,344 cusecs at Riverside. The catchment area is 720 sq. miles and a representative rate of flow measured at Tiroiti on 20 September 1955 was 887 causecs. In the early days much alluvial gold was won from the river and adjoining country-side, but little or none is obtained today.
The name Taieri may possibly be a corruption of Tai-ari which has been translated as “to smash or pound up, to pulp”. Another explanation is “the shining river” (tai, sea; aria, to appear or to resemble). It has also been suggested that the river was named Taiari because of a peculiarity in the flow of its tides on the eleventh day of the moon.
by Bryce Leslie Wood, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.