Omarama is a small township (population 231 at 2006 census) at the junction of State Highways 8 and 83, near the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin, in the South Island of New Zealand. Omarama is in the Waitaki District, in the historic Province of Otago. The Ahuriri River is a short distance to the north of the township.
Omarama is primarily a rural service centre, providing local farmers and other residents with necessities and facilities such as grocery shopping, fuel and mechanical services, as well as a post shop.
In more recent years these and similar services have expanded moderately, due to the increase in new residents and visitors, including anglers, artists, astronomers, sailplane enthusiasts, skiers and general tourists.
Services and facilities for backpackers alone have greatly expanded, with numerous hostels, lodges and homestays within the village and in the surrounding countryside.
A significant proportion of permanent village residents are employees of (or contractors to) Meridian Energy Limited, a State-Owned Enterprise which is responsible for much of New Zealand's hydroelectricity generation.
Omarama is Māori for "Place of Light", a reference to its extraordinarily pure and clear sky, which also makes it of great interest to astronomers. Benmore Peak Observatory is located approximately 13 km north of Omarama, atop the nearby Benmore Range.
There are many rivers and lakes in and near Omarama suitable for recreational fishing. The nearby Ahuriri River is a noted fly-fishing river and adjacent Lake Benmore and Lake Ohau are popular with boaters, as well as fly casters and other anglers.
Commercial fishing guides and related services are available within the village and surrounding area.
Commonly encountered local fish species include salmon, and Brown and Rainbow trout.
Although traditionally sheep country, Omarama area farms, along with those within the rest of the Mackenzie Basin, have rapidly converted to predominantly dairy farming, due to falling sheep meat and wool prices, and the recent boom in dairy product earnings.
This conversion has necessitated major changes to the local environment, with iconic tussock lands being ploughed and replaced by pasture, which has been facilitated by new irrigation schemes. Large centre pivot irrigators and private canal networks now dominate much of the landscape.
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