LIFESTYLE & INDUSTRY INFORMATION FOR CENTRAL OTAGO
History , Horticulture
, Forestry , Agriculture
, Minerals and Resources Towns
The dry interior of New Zealandís southern
South Island has a beauty of its own. Central Otago is a place of dramatic
scenery - schist mountains studded with tors, vast landscapes where wide
valleys were scoured by glaciers during the last Ice Age - and climatic
extremes. The climate is a continental one, low rainfall, hot summers and
Orchards proliferate around the river valleys, vineyards hug the
north-facing slopes in warmer parts, and sheep and cattle graze the valleys
and foothills. But the mountain ranges which disect the district support
little more than native tussock grasses and are snow-covered for several
months of the year.
Maori people came to Central Otago on expeditions
in search of moa and other food. The first white people to settle were
pastoralists, in the 1850's, but they were soon followed by the gold miners
during the big gold rushes of the late 1800s.
The first major rush was in 1861 to Gabrielís Gully, south of Central
Otago, but it was quickly followed by many other finds throughout the hinterlands,
attracting diggers in their thousands to forge trails across the mountains
to work in Central. Many remains of the goldmining era can still be seen
throughout the district, in buildings, bridges, man-made lakes and piles
But the districtís economy is now mainly based around servicing the
agricultural and horticultural sectors, and a thriving tourism industry.Merino
sheep which produce fine wool graze the high country sheep stations throughout
the district. Located close to Queenstown, one of New Zealandís premier
tourist resorts, and several skifields, Central Otagoís popularity is growing
rapidly with outdoor enthusiasts because of the unlimited opportunities
for mountain biking, walking, horse trekking, cross country skiing, fishing,
boating and lake-based activities. It is also a popular retirement area.
Central Otago's pattern of settlement is very much a legacy from
last century's goldmining era.
Alexandra is the main town servicing the Central Otago region. It
has a population of about 4600 (1996 statistics), excellent community and
sporting facilities, and is the business centre for the district. Formerly
known as Lower Dunstan, it grew originally as an offshoot of Clyde (The
Dunstan) but made its own name in the dredging boom of the 1890's.
Clyde, whose origins go back to the discovery of gold in the Cromwell
Gorge (between Clyde and Cromwell) in 1862, is now a quiet town but a popular
retirement and holiday centre. The main street has retained its historic
character through the renovation of several historic buildings. It has
a population of about 850 people.
Cromwell, 35km north of Alexandra or about 25km north of Clyde, through
the spectacular Cromwell Gorge, has a population of about 2600, and is
on the direct tourist route between Christchurch or Mount Cook and Queenstown.
A new town mall was built in the 1980s to replace the old main street which
was later flooded after commissioning of the Clyde Dam. An historic precinct
at Old Cromwell is now a popular centre for arts and crafts.
Ranfurly, in the heart of the Maniototo, some 140km north-west of
Dunedin and 100km east of Alexandra, lies on the Pig Root and is the farming
service centre for the rural district in the eastern parts of Central Otago.
It's population is 840. The nearby tiny townships of Naseby and St Bathans
once supported 5000 and 2000 goldminers respectively. They are now popular
summer destinations for holiday makers and visitors.
Roxburgh, some 50km south of Alexandra, is now a fruitgrowing and
farming centre. During the gold rush era, some 20 gold dredges worked the
Clutha River nearby. It has a population of 740
CENTRAL OTAGO - THE FACTS
|from Milford Sound
|from Mt Cook
Mediterranean style climate with hot summers and cool crisp winters.
Temperatures 15 - 35 C
Temperatures -6 - 15 C