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Otago is a region of contrasts. Bounded to the North and south by the Waitaki and Clutha Rivers, to the east by the Pacific Ocean and the west by the Southern Alps, Otago has a wide range of climates, soil types and aspects. As a result, the region has environments that span everything from coastal temperate climates with volcanic soils to semi-arid, near-continental, alpine environments.
Farms in the coastal part of the region are dominated by agricultural practices with mixed beef, sheep and deer farms being widespread. In the north of the region coastal region, however, is a very fertile sub-region (around Kakanui) that is famous for its new potatoes, tomatoes and brassica crops.
Inland, in the heart of the South Island, lies Central Otago which has the closest to continental conditions anywhere in New Zealand. Central Otago, has long hot summers and cold alpine winters and it is dry year-round (around 300mm of rain per annum). This is the home of the South Island's fruit bowl, with vast areas of pip and stone fruit and the world's southern-most wine region.
Inshore fisheries provide an abundance of species but the most sought after are blue cod, paua, local 'concession' cray fish (from a special fishery where smaller crays are harvested to allow for larger, more mature crays to breed with less competition) and little neck clams.
Dunedin is the historical gateway to the region where traders, farmers and gold miners would head for the more prosperous inland areas. But over the 20th Century tourism has become a major industry in Central Otago and, as such, Queenstown has become a new gateway for international visitors.
The people of Otago are known for their hospitality and many are still connected to the land as recently as a generation ago. They archetypal rural-dweller of Otago is the 'Southern Man', a mythical character who musters sheep on horseback and hunts, fishes and gathers food from the wild for a leisure. In reality, the Southern Man is a manifestation of a romantic vision of the past and today Otago has a diverse population working and living as others do around the country.
People who live in Otago are spoilt by the access to the beautiful landscapes that surround them and can the can be skiing in the morning on one of its several ski fields and surfing in the afternoon on some of the best breaks on the east coast of New Zealand.
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