Friday, 19 February 2016

Stewart Island, New Zealand

A wonderful card from a swap last year. I'm a little embarrassed to confess I didn't really know anything about Stewart Island in New Zealand until I read about it in the Postcrossing blog.

Stewart Island (officially named Stewart Island/Rakiura) is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is 381 people as of the 2013 census, most of whom live in the settlement of Oban on the eastern side of the island.

Stewart Island has an area of 1,680 square kilometres. It is hilly and has a wet climate. The north is dominated by the swampy valley of the Freshwater River. The river rises close to the northwestern coast and flows southeastwards into the large indentation of Paterson Inlet. The highest peak is Mount Anglem (979 metres), close to the northern coast. It is one of a rim of ridges that surround Freshwater Valley. The southern half is more uniformly undulating, rising to a ridge that runs south from the valley of the Rakeahua River, which also flows into Paterson Inlet. The southernmost point in this ridge is Mount Allen, at 750 metres. In the southeast the land is somewhat lower, and is drained by the valleys of the Toitoi River, Lords River, and Heron River. South West Cape on this island is the southernmost point of the main islands of New Zealand.

The only town is Oban, on Halfmoon Bay. A previous settlement, Port Pegasus, once boasted several stores and a post office, and was located on the southern coast of the island. It is now uninhabited, and is accessible only by boat or by an arduous hike through the island. Another site of former settlement is at Port William, a four-hour walk around the north coast from Oban, where immigrants from the Shetland Islands settled in the early 1870s. This was unsuccessful, and the settlers left within one to two years, most for sawmilling villages elsewhere on the island.

Fishing has been, historically, the most important element of the economy of Stewart Island/Rakiura, and while it remains important, tourism has become the main source of income for islanders. There has also been some farming and forestry. Oban has mainly sealed main roads, and some gravel roads on the outskirts.

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