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Tapanui, which brands itself as ‘the edge of the forest’, is the principal township of West Otago. It is 71 km north-west of Balclutha, but just 38 km north-east of Gore, in neighbouring Southland, with which it has many links. A first sawmill started in 1866; Tapanui was laid out in 1868. By the 1920s, forest had largely given way to sheep farms. Nearly all of these have converted to dairying since the early 1990s.

Meaning of place name
Named after the Tapanui Ranges. The name may be a contraction of Te Tappuae-o-Uenuku, te: the; tupuae: footstep; o: of; Uenuku, the rainbow god; or tapa: edge; nui: many; or, as one word: tapanui: a pattern in carving, or finally, a contraction of Te Papanui, the: the; papa: flat; nui: large.