You can learn stuff while travelling with bus drivers. I imagine it’s a bit like taxi drivers. I was travelling on the Intercity bus between Dunedin and Invercargill. The bus driver announced that we had crossed an imaginary line, into the Province of Southland. In the Nineteenth Century when the Southland pioneers wanted a provincial government that represented their interests more than the Provincial Council of Otago based in Dunedin they pushed for their own council based in Invercargill. It’s not mentioned that the area set up for the province was smaller than later territorial bodies, an autonomous enclave in the much larger province of Otago. I mentioned it to Southern Dave while I was visiting, who put its historic boundaries between the Mataura and Waiau rivers, carefully keeping most of the gold-mining areas under Otago’s jurisdiction, and in Dunedin’s pockets. This was where the money was at the time, and a significant number of the male workforce in Southland followed it. Money talks, it says Good-bye. Eventually after fifteennine years (which is not a bad run, the same length of time as Labour in government under Helen Clark) Southland merged back into Otago. A few years later provincial government in New Zealand was disbanded and replaced with local district authorities. The latter bodies identified as Southland covered a wider area. Southlanders continue to maintain their identity as independent-minded provincials ever since. Fair enough. Just don’t mistake the historic facts with the myth of our identity.

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