Alexandra is located on almost level land at the junction of the Clutha and Manuherikia Rivers. Hills and mountains surround the river flats. Alexandra is linked with Dunedin, 137 miles south-east, by a branch railway, and is 18 miles south-east of Cromwell, the terminus. By road Alexandra is 27½ miles north of Roxburgh.
Alexandra enjoys a splendid climate, with an annual average of over 2,000 hours of sunshine. The rainfall is extremely low, averaging about 12 in. To date, the driest year recorded was 1964 when only 8·29 in. of rain fell. Because of the low rainfall throughout the district, irrigation schemes have been developed.
The fertile river flats in the vicinity of Alexandra are utilised for sheep farming and fruitgrowing. Fruit packing is an important seasonal activity in the town. The Government and several commercial firms have made Alexandra the administrative centre of Central Otago, and a high proportion of the town's labour force is employed in this way. A variety of retail and servicing firms cater for the needs of the surrounding rural population.
Alluvial gold mining was formerly the main activity in the area. One gold dredge worked on the Earnscleugh Flats, 5 miles north-west of Alexandra, until 1963. The first miners, Horatio Hartley and Christopher Reilly, prospected in the bed of the Clutha near the present town site early in 1862. In August of that year they disclosed the location of a rich goldfield named the Dunstan. Places and objects associated with the early gold-mining days abound in the vicinity of the town. Alexandra began as a miners' settlement and was known as Lower Dunstan and alternatively as Manuherikia. In 1863, on the occasion of the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to Edward, Prince of Wales, the town was named Alexandra South, the word “South” being later dropped when Alexandra in the King Country reverted to the Maori name Pirongia. Alexandra became a borough under the Otago Municipal Corporations Ordinance 1865, on 20 May 1867.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,414; 1956 census, 1,823; 1961 census, 2,292.