Southland is New Zealand's southernmost region. It consists mainly of the southwestern portion of the South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura. It includes Southland District, Gore District and the city ofInvercargill. The region covers over 3.1 million hectares and spans over 3,400 km of coast.
Southland was a scene of early extended contact between Europeans and Maori, in this case sealers, whalers and missionaries – Wohlers at Ruapuke. In 1853, Walter Mantell purchased Murihiku from local Maori iwi, claiming the land for European settlement. Over successive decades, present-day Southland and Otago were settled by large numbers of Scottishsettlers. Immigration to New Zealand had been precipitated by an economic depression in Scotland and a schism between the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland.[verification needed]
In 1852, James Menzies, leader of the Southland separatist movement, became the first Superintendent of the tiny Southland electorate which was still part of the large Otago Region. Under the influence of Menzies,Southland Province (a small part of the present Region, centred onInvercargill) seceded from Otago in 1861 following the escalation of political tensions.
However, rising debt forced Southland to rejoin Otago in 1870, and the province was abolished entirely when the Abolition of the Provinces Act came into force on 1 November 1876. In the 1880s, the development of an export industry based on butter and cheese encouraged the growth of dairy farming in Southland. Consequently, the colony's first dairy factory was established at Edendale in 1882. Much of this export went to the United Kingdom.
The region's largest flood on 27 January 1984 led to a state of emergency being declared, evacuation of 4,000 people, and damage exceeding $100 million (in 1984 dollars).
Politically, Southland proper extends from Fiordland in the west past the Mataura River to the Catlins the east. To the north, Southland is framed by the Darran and Eyre Mountains. Farther south lies Stewart Island which is separated from the mainland by the Foveaux Strait.
Southland contains New Zealand's highest waterfall—the Browne Falls. Lake Hauroko is the deepest lake in the country. The highest peak in Southland is Mount Tutoko, which is part of the Darran mountains. The largest lake in Southland isLake Te Anau followed by Lake Manapouri which both lie within the boundaries of Fiordland National Park. Established on 20 February 1905, it is the largest national park in New Zealand—covering much of Fiordland which is devoid of human settlement.
Fiordland's terrain is dominated by mountains, fjords and glacial lakes carved up by glaciations during the last ice age, between 75,000 to 15,000 years ago. The region's coast is dotted by several fjords and other sea inlets which stretch fromMilford Sound in the north to Preservation Inlet to the south. Farther north and east of Fiordland lie the Darran and Eyre Mountains which are part of the block of schist that extends into neighboring Central Otago.
Farther east of the Waiau River, the Southland Plains predominate which include some of New Zealand's most fertile farmlands. The region's two principal settlements Invercargill and Gore are located on the plains. The Plains extend from theWaiau River in the west to the Mataura River to the east. It can be divided into three broad areas: the Southland plain proper, the Waimea Plains and the lower Waiau plain to the west near the Waiau river. Off the coast of Southland lies theGreat South Basin which stretches over 500,000 km2 (covering an area 1.5 times New Zealand’s land mass). It is one of the country's largest undeveloped offshore petroleum basins with prospects for both oil and gas.
Southland is one of New Zealand’s most sparsely populated regions with its population of 96,500 (June 2014 estimate). Due to a “drift north” between 1996 to 2001, Southland’s population declined by 6.3% though this has since dropped to 0.1% as of 2006. Invercargill, the region’s main centre and seat of local government, makes up half of Southland’s population with a population of 52,000. Six other centres have populations over 1,000: Gore, Mataura, Winton, Riverton,Bluff and Te Anau. Most of Southland’s population is concentrated on the eastern Southland Plains with Fiordland almost totally devoid of permanent human settlement.
Approximately 94% of the population is of European lineage and the region is noted for a relatively Scottish and Irish heritage. Māori comprise about 10% of the population and are largely concentrated around the port of Bluff. During the 1940s, the development of the freezing works boosted a short-term immigration to the region by North Island Māori. Compared to other parts of New Zealand, Pacific Islanders and Asians are under-represented.