Otago (/ɵˈtɑːɡoʊ/; New Zealand [əˈtɐːɡɐʉ̯] ( )) is a region of New Zealand in the south of the South Island administered by the Otago Regional Council. It has an area of approximately 32,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi), making it the country's third largest local government region. Its population was 211,700 in the June 2014 estimate.
The name "Otago" is an old southern Maori word whose North Island dialect equivalent is "Otakou", introduced to the south by Europeans in the 1840s. The exact meaning of the term is disputed, with common translations being "isolated village" and "place of red earth", the latter referring to the reddish-ochre clay which is common in the area around Dunedin. "Otago" is also the old name of the European settlement on the Otago Harbour, established by the Weller Brothers in 1831, which lies close to the modern harbourside community of Otakou. The place later became the focus of the Otago Association, an offshoot of the Free Church of Scotland, notable for its high-minded adoption of the principle that ordinary people, not the landowner, should choose the ministers.
Major centres include Dunedin (the principal city), Oamaru (made famous by Janet Frame), Balclutha, Alexandra, and the major tourist centres Queenstown and Wanaka. Kaitangata in South Otago is a prominent source of coal. The Waitaki and Clutha rivers provide much of the country's hydroelectric power. Some parts of the area originally covered by Otago Province are now administered as part of Southland Region..New Zealand's first university, the University of Otago, was founded in 1869 as the provincial university in Dunedin.
The Central Otago wine region produces award winning wines made from varieties such as the Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc,Merlot, and Riesling grapes. It has an increasing reputation as New Zealand’s leading Pinot noir region.
The Otago settlement, an outgrowth of the Free Church of Scotland, materialised in March 1848 with the arrival of the first two immigrant ships from Greenock on the Firth of Clyde—the John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing. Captain William Cargill, a veteran of the Peninsular War, was the secular leader: Otago citizens subsequently elected him to the office of provincial Superintendent after the provinces were created in 1852. The Otago Province was the whole of New Zealand from the Waitaki river south, including Stewart Island and the sub-Antarctic islands. It included the territory of the later Southland province and also the much more extensive lands of the modern Southland Region.
Initial settlement was concentrated on the port and city, then expanded, notably to the south-west, where the fertile Taieri Plains offered good farmland. The 1860s saw rapid commercial expansion after Gabriel Read discovered gold at Gabriel's Gully near Lawrence, and the Central Otago goldrush ensued. Veterans of goldfields in California and Australia, plus many other fortune-seekers from Europe, North America and China, poured into the then Province of Otago, eroding its Scottish Presbyterian character. Further gold discoveries at Clyde and on the Arrow River round Arrowtown led to a boom, and Otago became for a period the cultural and economic centre of New Zealand. New Zealand's first dailynewspaper, the Otago Daily Times, originally edited by Julius Vogel, dates from this period.
The Province of Southland separated from Otago Province and set up its own Provincial Council at Invercargill in 1861. After difficulties ensued, Otago re-absorbed it in 1870. Its territory is included in the southern region of the old Otago Province which is named after it and is now the territory of the Southland region.
The provincial governments were abolished in 1876 when the Abolition of the Provinces Act came into force on 1 November 1876, and were replaced by other forms of local authority, including counties. Two in Otago were named after the Scottish independence heroes Wallace and Bruce. From this time the national limelight gradually shifted northwards.
The population of Otago is 211,700, which is approximately 4.7 percent of New Zealand’s total population of 4.5 million. About 54.9 percent of the population resides in the Dunedin urban area—the region’s main city and the country’s sixth largest urban area. For historical and geographical reasons, Dunedin is usually regarded as one of New Zealand's four main centres. Unlike other southern centres, Dunedin’s population has not declined since the 1970s due to the presence of the University of Otago especially its medical school which attracts students from all over New Zealand and overseas.
Other significant urban centres in Otago with populations over 1,000 include: Queenstown, Oamaru, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Balclutha, Milton and Mosgiel. Between 1996 and 2006, the population of the Queenstown Lakes District grew by 60% due to the region’s booming tourism industry.
SOURCE : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otago