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Oamaru (About this sound pronunciation ), the largest town in North Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand, is the main town in the Waitaki District. It is 80 kilometres south of Timaru and 120 kilometres north of Dunedin, on the Pacific coast, and State Highway 1 and the railway Main South Line connects it to both. Oamaru's historic status as the second centre in the Otago Region (after Dunedin) appears under threat from the growth of Queenstown in Central Otago. The Air New Zealand subsidiary Eagle Airways provides regular flights from Oamaru Airport to Christchurch.

The name Oamaru apparently derives from Māori words meaning the place of Maru (compare with Timaru). The identity of Maru remains open to conjecture.



There are some important archaeological sites around Oamaru. Those at the Waitaki River mouth and at Awamoa both date from the Archaic (Moa-hunter) phase of Māori culture, when New Zealand's human population clustered along the south-east coast from about 1100 AD. The Waitaki River mouth had at least 1,200 ovens. Awamoa saw the first archaeological excavation in New Zealand when W.B.D. Mantell dug there at Christmas 1847 and in 1852. Smaller Archaic sites exist at Cape Wanbrow and at Beach Road in central Oamaru. The distinctive Archaic art of the Waitaki Valley rock shelters dates from this period — some of it presumably made by the occupants of these sites. The area also features Classic and Protohistoric sites, from after about 1500 AD, at Tamahaerewhenua, Tekorotuaheka, Te Punamaru, Papakaio and Kakanui.[2]

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