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Lumsden is a farm service centre for the western Waimea Plains, 84 km north of Invercargill. The Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu tribes fought on the nearby Five Rivers plain about 300 years ago. European settlers took up land in the district from 1861. Railway lines reached Lumsden from Invercargill in 1878 and Gore in 1880, and the town became a rail junction. Rail services stopped in 1971, but the station building remains a major feature.

Meaning of place name
It was originally known as ‘The Elbow’ because the Ōreti River turns 90° from east to south at this point. The name was changed in 1876 as a compliment to the Honourable George Lumsden, a Scottish trader who became a politician.