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Otago - self confidence and innovation

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand launched the Otago places entry on its web site at a special function at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery today.

Malcolm McKinnon, author of the Otago site said “Otago has self confidence. The evidence of that can be found in the research reputation of the University of Otago and in innovative enterprises such as Natural History of New Zealand and Animation Research Limited.”

“Otago is also celebrated for its dramatic coastal and interior landscapes and the beauty of its lakes and mountains,” he said.

Otago today is the home of the world’s first commercial bungy jump and a magnet for visitors who want to ski, or engage in adventure sports or eco-tourism.  Many also visit the region to see the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow created by local pilot Tim Wallis. 

A large population of moa once roamed Otago. The moa, a very large flightless bird, unique to New Zealand, has been extinct for around 600 years, but large caches of moa bones were found by European settlers in the 1830s.

Over 160 years later the celebrity merino sheep, Shrek, evaded shearers in Central Otago for six years. When he was finally shorn his fleece weighed a remarkable 27 kilograms. 

The gold rushes of the 1860s made Otago, founded by Presbyterian Scots in 1848, the richest province in New Zealand and Dunedin was for a time New Zealand’s largest and wealthiest city.

Interesting Otago facts

  • A fairydown sleeping bag made by Dunedin company Arthur Ellis Ltd accompanied Edmund Hillary on his ascent of Mt Everest in 1953.
  • Central Otago is a massive block of schist, previously part of the 80 million year old Zealandia continent.
  • In 1844 the Ngāi Tahu chiefs Taiaroa and Karetai agreed to the sale of the Otago block which opened the way for Pakeha settlement.
  • More districts in Otago and Southland than in any part of New Zealand voted themselves ‘dry’ (prohibiting the sale of alcohol) under local option votes from 1894.
  • The Robert Burns Fellowship, established at Otago University in 1958, was New Zealand’s first literary award.

Te Ara, the world’s first national encyclodepia was produced specifically for the internet.

Updated on 23rd July 2015