Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. While Tauranga, Napier-Hastings and Hamilton have eclipsed the city in population in recent years, it is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until superseded by Auckland on the creation of the Auckland Council in November 2010. Dunedin was the largest city in New Zealand by population until about 1900.
The Dunedin urban area lies on the central-eastern coast of Otago, surrounding the head of Otago Harbour. The harbour and hills around Dunedin are the remnants of an extinct volcano. The city suburbs extend out into the surrounding valleys and hills, onto the isthmus of the Otago Peninsula, and along the shores of the Otago Harbour and the Pacific Ocean.
The city's largest industry is tertiary education – Dunedin is home to the University of Otago, New Zealand's first university (1869), and the Otago Polytechnic. Students account for a large proportion of the population: 21.6 percent of the city's population was aged between 15 and 24 at the 2006 census, compared to the New Zealand average of 14.2 percent.
Archaeological evidence shows the first human (Māori) occupation of New Zealand occurred between AD 1250–1300, with population concentrated along the southeast coast. A camp site at Kaikai's Beach, near Otago Heads, has been dated from about that time. There are numerous archaic (moa hunter) sites in what is now Dunedin, several of them large and permanently occupied, particularly in the 14th century. The population contracted but expanded again with the evolution of the Classic culture which saw the building of several pā, fortified settlements, notably Pukekura at (Taiaroa Head), about 1650. There was a settlement in what is now central Dunedin (Ōtepoti) occupied as late as about 1785 but abandoned by 1826.
Maori tradition tells first of a people called Kahui Tipua living in the area, then Te Rapuwai, semi-legendary but considered to be historical. The next arrivals were Waitaha followed by Kāti Mamoe late in the 16th century and then Kai Tahu (Ngai Tahu in modern standard Māori) who arrived in the mid 17th century. These migration waves have often been represented as 'invasions' in European accounts but modern scholarship has cast doubt on that. They were probably migrations like those of the European which incidentally resulted in bloodshed.
The sealer John Boultbee recorded in the 1820s that the 'Kaika Otargo' (settlements around and near Otago Harbour) were the oldest and largest in the south.
Lieutenant James Cook stood off what is now the coast of Dunedin between 25 February 1770 and 5 March 1770, naming Cape Saunders on the Otago Peninsula and Saddle Hill. He reported penguins and seals in the vicinity, which led sealers to visit from the beginning of the 19th century. The early years of sealing saw a feud between sealers and local Maori, from 1810–1823, the "Sealers' War" sparked by an incident on Otago Harbour, but William Tucker became the first European to settle in the area in 1815. Permanent European occupation dates from 1831 when the Weller brothers founded their whaling station at Otago, modern Otakou, on the Otago Harbour. Epidemics badly reduced the Maori population. By the late 1830s, the harbour was an international whaling port. Johnny Jones established a farming settlement and a mission station, the South Island's first, at Waikouaiti in 1840.
In 1844, the Deborah, captained by Thomas Wing and carrying, among others his wife Lucy and a representative of the New Zealand Company, Frederick Tuckett, came south to determine the location of a free church settlement. After inspecting several areas around the eastern coast of the south island, Tuckett selected the site which would become known as Dunedin. Tuckett turned down the site, which would become Christchurch, as he felt the ground around the Avon river was swampy.
The Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland founded Dunedin at the head of Otago Harbour in 1848 as the principal town of its special settlement. The name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Charles Kettle the city's surveyor, instructed to emulate the characteristics of Edinburgh, produced a striking, "Romantic" design. The result was both grand and quirky streets as the builders struggled and sometimes failed to construct his bold vision across the challenging landscape. Captain William Cargill, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, was the secular leader. The Reverend Thomas Burns, a nephew of the poet Robert Burns, was the spiritual guide.
Gold rush era
In 1852, Dunedin became the capital of the Otago Province, the whole of New Zealand from the Waitaki south. In 1861 the discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully, to the southwest, led to a rapid influx of people and saw Dunedin become New Zealand's first city by growth of population in 1865. The new arrivals included many Irish, but also Italians, French, Germans, Jews and Chinese. The Dunedin Southern Cemetery was established in 1858, the Dunedin Northern Cemetery in 1872.
Dunedin and the region industrialised and consolidated and the Main South Line connected the city with Christchurch in 1878 and Invercargill in 1879. Otago Boys' High School was founded in 1863. The University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand, in 1869. Otago Girls' High School was established in 1871. Between 1881 and 1957, Dunedin was home to cable trams, being both one of the first and last such systems in the world. Early in the 1880s the inauguration of the frozen meat industry, with the first shipment leaving from Port Chalmers in 1882, saw the beginning of a later great national industry.
After ten years of gold rushes the economy slowed but Julius Vogel's immigration and development scheme brought thousands more especially to Dunedin and Otago before recession set in again in the 1880s. In these first and second times of prosperity many institutions and businesses were established, New Zealand's first daily newspaper, art school, medical school and public art gallery the Dunedin Public Art Gallery among them. There was also a remarkable architectural flowering producing many substantial and ornamental buildings. R.A. Lawson's First Church of Otago and Knox Church are notable examples, as are buildings by Maxwell Bury and F.W. Petre. The other visual arts also flourished under the leadership of W. M. Hodgkins. The city's landscape and burgeoning townscape were vividly portrayed by George O'Brien 1821–1888. From the mid 1890s the economy revived. Institutions such as the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum and the Hocken Collections – the first of their kind in New Zealand – were founded. More notable buildings such as the Railway Station and Olveston were erected. New energy in the visual arts represented by G.P. Nerli culminated in the career of Frances Hodgkins.
Early Modern era
By 1900, Dunedin was no longer the country's biggest city. Influence and activity moved north to the other centres ("the drift north"), a trend which continued for much of the following century. Despite this, the university continued to expand, and a student quarter became established. At the same time people started to notice Dunedin's mellowing, the ageing of its grand old buildings, with writers like E.H. McCormick pointing out its atmospheric charm. In the 1930s and early 1940s a new generation of artists such as M.T. (Toss) Woollaston, Doris Lusk, Anne Hamblett, Colin McCahon and Patrick Hayman once again represented the best of the country's talent. The Second World War saw the dispersal of these painters, but not before McCahon had met a very youthful poet, James K. Baxter, in a central city studio.
Numerous large companies had been established in Dunedin, many of which became national leaders. Late among them was Fletcher Construction, founded by Sir James Fletcher in the early 20th century. Kempthorne Prosser, established in 1879 in Stafford Street, was the largest fertiliser and drug manufacturer in the country for over 100 years. G. Methven, a metalworking and tap manufacturer based in South Dunedin, was also a leading firm, as was H. E. Shacklock, an iron founder and appliance manufacturer later taken over by the Auckland concern Fisher and Paykel. The Mosgiel Woollens was another Victorian Dunedin foundation. Hallensteins was the colloquial name of a menswear manufacturer and national retail chain while the DIC and Arthur Barnett were department stores, the former a nationwide concern. Coulls, Somerville Wilkie – later part of the Whitcoulls group – had its origins in Dunedin in the 19th century. There were also the National Mortgage and Agency Company, Wright Stephensons Limited, the Union Steamship Company and the National Insurance Company and the Standard Insurance Company among many others, which survived into the 20th century.
Post War developments
After World War II prosperity and population growth revived, although Dunedin trailed as the fourth 'main centre'. A generation reacting against Victorianism started demolishing its buildings and many were lost, notably William Mason's Stock Exchange in 1969. (Dunedin Stock Exchange building) Although the university continued to expand, the city's population contracted, notably from 1976 to 1981. This was, however, a culturally vibrant time with the university's new privately endowed arts fellowships bringing such luminaries as James K Baxter, Ralph Hotere, Janet Frame, and Hone Tuwhare to the city.
During the 1980s Dunedin's popular music scene blossomed, with many acts, such as The Chills, The Clean, The Verlaines, and Straitjacket Fits, gaining national and international recognition. The term "The Dunedin Sound" was coined to describe the 1960s-influenced, guitar-led music which flourished at the time. Bands and musicians are still playing and recording in many styles.
By 1990, population decline had steadied and slow growth has occurred since and Dunedin re-invented itself as a 'heritage city' with its main streets refurbished in Victorian style. R.A. Lawson's Municipal Chambers (Dunedin Town Hall) in the Octagon were handsomely restored. The city was also recognised as a centre of excellence in tertiary education and research. The university's and polytechnic's growth accelerated. Dunedin has continued to refurbish itself, embarking on redevelopments of the art gallery railway station and the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.
The city has a population of .
Dunedin has flourishing niche industries including engineering, software engineering, bio-technology and fashion. Port Chalmers on the Otago Harbour provides Dunedin with deep-water facilities. It is served by the Port Chalmers Branch, a branch line railway which diverges from the Main South Line and runs from Christchurch by way of Dunedin to Invercargill. Dunedin is also home to MTF, the nationwide vehicle finance company.
The cityscape glitters with gems of Victorian and Edwardian architecture – the legacy of the city's gold-rush affluence. Many, including First Church, Otago Boys' High School and Larnach Castle were designed by one of New Zealand's most eminent architects R A Lawson. Other prominent buildings include Olveston and the Dunedin Railway Station. Other unusual or memorable buildings or constructions are Baldwin Street, claimed to be the world's steepest street; the Captain Cook tavern; Cadbury Chocolate Factory (Cadbury World); and the local Speight's brewery.
Dunedin is also a centre for ecotourism. The world's only mainland Royal Albatross colony and several penguin and seal colonies lie within the city boundaries on the Otago Peninsula. To the south, on the western side of Lake Waihola, are the Sinclair Wetlands.
The thriving tertiary student population has led to a vibrant youth culture (students are referred to as 'Scarfies' by people who are not students), consisting of the previously mentioned music scene, and more recently a burgeoning boutique fashion industry. A strong visual arts community also exists in Dunedin, notably in Port Chalmers and the other settlements which dot the coast of the Otago Harbour, and also in communities such as Waitati.
Sport is catered for in Dunedin by the floodlit rugby and cricket venue of Forsyth Barr Stadium, the new Caledonian Ground soccer and athletics stadium near the University at Logan Park, the large Edgar Centre indoor sports centre, the University Oval cricket ground, the Dunedin Ice Stadium, and numerous golf courses and parks. There are also the Forbury Park horseracing circuit in the south of the city and several others within a few kilometres. St Clair Beach is a well-known surfing venue, and the harbour basin is popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers. Dunedin has four public swimming pools: Moana Pool, Port Chalmers Pool, Mosgiel, and St Clair Salt Water Pool.