An Otago Regional Council study has calculated that 66% of the region’s 3 million hectares is used for primary production.
The report, Otago Region Economic Profile for Land and Water, says Otago is home to about 5% of the country’s population, has 140,000 people employed and total gross output of $28bn with value-added activities worth an additional $13bn.
The report says the proportion of highly versatile land suited to primary production is low compared to other provinces in New Zealand, due to the relatively dry climate over much of the region.
Agriculture and agricultural product processing and manufacturing employ about 17,200 people in Otago, generating gross output of $4.6bn and added value of an extra $1.5bn.
The primary sector in Otago accounts for 9.8% of the region’s international export revenue while construction (output of $4.3bn) and tourism ($2.2bn) are the other key industries.
Sheep, beef cattle, and grain farming ($1.2bn) are the largest primary sector industries, employing 3700 people, followed by dairy ($410 million), which provides 2000 jobs.
Horticulture and fruit-growing ($150m) employs 3000 people, with estimates that 59% of its output is exported.
Otago is the second largest region in NZ, representing about 12% of NZ’s land area. Its lakes, rivers and conservation areas cover about 700,000ha.
Given the topography and dry inland climate, the study says quite a sizeable amount of the region is either non-pastoral land or very low stocked.
Dairy production is concentrated in the Clutha and Waitaki districts, with horticulture and viticulture operations centred on Central Otago with limited operations in the Waitaki District and Dunedin City.
Plantation forestry covers around 120,000ha, or 4% of the region, and is mainly concentrated in the coastal part of the region of Waitaki District, Dunedin City and Clutha District.
Nearly 115,000ha is irrigated, mostly in north and central Otago with pivot systems (35%) the most popular followed by K-line/long lateral 22%, border dyke 9% and wild flooding 7%.