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Events In History

30 September 1878

The ‘Great Flood’ of 1878 killed at least three people and thousands of animals as it swept across the southern South Island

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Balclutha, dubbed the ‘big river town’ by its promoters, is on the Clutha River/Mata-Au, about 10 km upstream from its mouth. A ferry first plied the Clutha at Balclutha in 1852. The river was bridged in 1868, and a borough (town) council was formed in 1870. After severe flooding in 1878, floodbanks were built to protect the town. The Finegand freezing works opened in 1912. A high school and hospital date from 1925 and 1926. The existing six-span arched concrete bridge opened in 1935. Balclutha’s population tripled between 1945 and 1976, from 1,500 to 4,500. Housing expanded up the slopes on both sides of the river. Livestock numbers soared; the kill count at Finegand peaked at 2 million in the 1984/85 season. Numbers have fallen since, and the town’s population has been static. Four kilometres south, on the road to Ōwaka, the Telford Farm Training Institute was founded in 1964. In 2011 a part of Lincoln University, Telford provides practical experience and technical training for students. The distinctive stone Otanomomo homestead is used as the administration building.
Meaning of place name
Name derived from the location of the township which spans the Clutha River. Clutha is the Gaelic name for the River Clyde in Scotland. Māori name is Iwikatea: iwi: bones; katea: whitened - refers to a battle which left human bones strewn over the ground.