The second largest town in Southland, Gore has an amazing history, fantastic record of world and national greats, a rocking country music scene, strong retail presence, and a rich cultural diversity almost unexpected for a regional area.
Did you know?
- Irk Street, in Gore, has the longest continuous example of art deco architecture in New Zealand.
- Gore lawyer Edmund Bowler was the first New Zealander in a NZEF (NZ Expeditionary Forces) uniform to step on to ANZAC Cover in WW1.
- Prohibition from 1902 to 1957 meant no alcohol could be bought or sold in the town. To this day, beer and wine can’t be bought in supermarkets as Gore is part of a licensing trust area.
- Bannerman Park is home to some of the rarest rhododendron species in the world.
A boutique town
Surrounded by lush land and bisected by the Mataura River, Gore has a history that runs deep with traditional ties to mana whenua and early settlers alike.
Gore is still attracting new settlers even today, drawn by work either in the strong surrounding farms or agricultural support industries. There are at least 45 different ethnicities within the wider Gore district.
Gore was and remains an agricultural service town. But within the town there are gems that make it so much more and are the fabric of the District’s Rural City Living brand.
The Eastern Southland Gallery is internationally renowned for its permanent collections of work by NZ artists Ralph Hotere, Rita Angus and Theo Schoon, and home to the John Money Wing.
The Gallery was nicknamed the 'Goreggenheim' by Saatchi & Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts.
It’s not only art putting Gore on the map though. We’ve got statues to prove our claims to fame.
There are the
- Iconic brown trout statue – a salute to Gore being the World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing
- Hands of Fame guitar statue – striking a cord for Gore as the New Zealand Capital of Country Music
- Ram statue in the Main Street – a tribute to the Romney breed, the backbone of Gore’s rural economy for many years
- Sgt Dan – an advertising phenomenon in the early 1900s for Fleming’s Cremoata porridge, produced in Gore
The settlement of Gore is a matter of conjecture. Settlement records say 1862, whereas historians say the first settlers were in 1855. Adding to this, the first Māori settlement recorded in Tuturau, near Mataura, dates to the early 1800s.
The Mataura Valley was called home by those seeking a place to live that could provide food sources (mahinga kai), and those wanting to be close to tend to business. Maruawai was the area’s original name and one returning to prominence today.
In the early 19th and 20th centuries, the best way to cross the mighty Mataura River was using the ford where the rail and traffic bridges are located today. This led to east of the river being known as ‘the Long Ford’, or Longford.
In 1862 the area was officially surveyed and settled. After its construction began in the early 1870s, a railway line between Invercargill and Gore was opened 30 August 1875.
Locals were shocked to see ‘Gore’ painted on the side of the railway station.
Town folk were confused, as east of the river was known as Longford and the west was Gordon. The history books tell us Gore was named after the then Governor of New Zealand Thomas Gore Browne. At least the town wasn’t named Browne!
The establishment of the Gore Electric Light & Power Syndicate in 1894 lead to Gore becoming the third town in New Zealand to install a generator and provide public electricity supply.
A prosperous town
From the end of World War II until 1976, Gore enjoyed prosperity driven by record prices for agricultural produce that paved the foundations on which our town still thrives on today.
In the late 1960’s, it was reputed Gore had the highest per-capita retail turnover of any New Zealand town.
One of Gore’s foundation economic driving forces was the home of New Zealand’s favourite porridge, the Fleming’s Creamoata Mill. It still stands today with a Category I heritage listing.
Sgt Dan, was an idea to boost porridge sales and became an advertising icon. He remains on the side of the mill overlooking Main Street, reminding locals and travellers alike how important this national breakfast plant once was. In its heyday, the mill was considered one of the most modern cereal mills in the Southern Hemisphere.
While it’s called many things, Gore has always found comfort in its country roots, for both music and the local agricultural success.
To country music or not to country music
For nearly half a century, Gore has solidified itself as the New Zealand Capital of Country Music. Tussock Country, a festival held annually in Gore showcasing multiple music events and awards, brings in thousands of attendees and over a million dollars in visitor spend over its nine days of events.
The festival features the famous NZ Gold Guitars, the largest country music talent quest in New Zealand, and the Freeze Ya Bit Off Busking competition.
Country music is the foundation of Gore’s sister city relationship with Tamworth, in New South Wales.