West Otago is the local name given to part of the region of Otago, New Zealand, lying close to the border with Southland. It is administratively connected to South Otago, but is geographically separated from it by a range of hills known as the Blue Mountains. The largest settlements in West Otago are Tapanui and Heriot, and other localities within the area include Moa Flat, Edievale, Crookston, Merino Downs, and Waikoikoi. The area described as West Otago is sometimes extended to include Lawrence, Clinton, and Beaumont. The ghost town of Kelso also lies within West Otago. Other notable features of the area include Conical Hill and Landslip Hill, the latter being a major fossil-bearing formation.
West Otago is connected to the New Zealand State Highway network by SH 90 , which runs north-south through the Pomahaka valley linking SH 1 near Gore and SH 8 at Raes Junction. The area was formerly also served by a rail branch line, the Tapanui Branch, which ran from 1880 until 1978.
European settlement in the area dates back to the 1850s. Early settlers in the region included William Pinkerton, an Englishman who had been a runholder in Australia for over a decade, who first cleared land for farming around Tapanui in 1857. A Scottish settler, Adam Oliver, and his wife Agnes, had settled further down the Pomahaka valley the previous year. Prior to European arrival, the area was a Māori moa-hunting area, but had little if any permanent settlement.
West Otago consists of rolling farmland and forested hills close to the Pomahaka River. Livestock farming (sheep and cattle) is a major industry in the area, and Tapanui is historically a forestry centre.
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