Gore is situated on flats on the banks of the Mataura River in central Southland. The main part of the town extends along the west bank of the Mataura River. A smaller portion, called East Gore, occupies the opposite bank. The immediate surrounding country is undulating plain, but to the east the land is broken by hill country and on the northwest and west within about 4 miles the land rises steeply to the Hokonui Hills. Gore is the junction of the South Island Main Trunk railway and the Waimea branch line to Mossburn and Kingston via Lumsden. By road or rail Gore is 40 miles north-east of Invercargill, 47 miles north-west of Balclutha, and 7 miles north-east of Mataura. Roxburgh is 66 miles north-west.
The main farming activity of the district is sheep raising, but there is some mixed farming. Wheat and oats are grown. Several opencast lignite mines are worked in the district. The principal workings are at Waimumu (about 7 miles south-west). Limestone is quarried and processed near Waimumu. Daggy wool is processed near Otamita (8 miles north-west), and there is a fertiliser-mixing plant at McNab. Gore is the largest inland town of Southland and is the shopping centre for the farming community of an extensive district. The industrial activities of the borough include the manufacture of flour, oatmeal, and cereal foodstuffs; bacon and ham curing; bricks, field tiles, concrete products, joinery, livestock foods, and knitwear. Sawmilling, timber treatment, general engineering, seed cleaning, and fell-mongering are also carried on.
Prior to European occupation the flax and tussock flats, where Gore now stands, were at or near the routes used by Maori travellers. Tuturau, near Mataura, was the nearest settlement. Several notable European visitors passed through the locality in early settlement times — W. B. D. Mantell and Stephen in 1851 to initiate the purchase of Murihiku (Southland), and in 1852 C. J. Nairn and C. J. Pharazyn seeking country for grazing runs. Mantell completed the purchase of Murihiku in Aug 1853 and, soon after, large areas, including the district around Gore, were taken up for sheep runs, During July 1853 Nathaniel Chalmers visited Tuturau and, in September, with the Maoris Reko and Kaikoura, travelled through what is now Gore on a pioneer journey into the hinterland. As the river involved a long fording, the locality became known as “the Long Ford”, or Longford. In 1862 a few town sections were surveyed and Longford was named Gore as a compliment to the Governor, Thomas Gore Browne. A village which later sprang up on the east bank of the Mataura was named Gordon after Governor Sir Arthur Gordon, but eventually became known as East Gore. By 1864 the road from Balclutha through Gore to Invercargill was open for wheeled traffic and a regular coach service began between Invercargill and Dunedin.
Railway construction from Invercargill began in the early 1870s and the line was opened to Gore on 30 August 1875. On 22 January 1879 the railway reached Balclutha and there linked with the line to Dunedin. The Waimea Plains Railway Co. opened a line from Gore to Lumsden on 31 July 1880. (This was purchased by the Government on 13 November 1886.) The private railway linked Gore with the Invercargill-Kingston branch line which had been completed on 10 July 1878. On 27 November 1908 a branch line was opened from McNab to Waikaka (16 miles north-east). It was closed on 9 September 1962. Another branch line was opened from Riversdale (18 miles north-west) to Switzers — now called Waikaia (32 miles north-west) – on 1 October 1909. It was closed on 16 May 1959. These railways had a significant effect on the development of Gore. Gore and Gordon (East Gore) grew as separate town districts. In 1885 Gore was constituted a borough and in 1890 East Gore was amalgamated with it.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 5,551; 1956 census, 6,527; 1961 census, 7,270.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.