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Aramoana is located in New Zealand
Location in New Zealand

Aramoana is a small coastal settlement 27 kilometres (17 mi) north of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. The settlement's permanent population in the 2001 Census was 261. Supplementing this are seasonal visitors from the city who occupy cribs. The name Aramoana is Māori for "pathway of the sea".

It was founded by the Otago Harbour Board and established in the 1880s as a pilot station for navigation around the mouth of the Otago Harbour. This area grew into a small farming village. In the 1950s, the town became popular as a beach resort and a rural life village due to the construction of a mole to inhibit the spread of tidal sands into the mouth of Otago Harbour and was surveyed and amalgamated as a suburb of Port Chalmers borough.

Location and natural environment

Looking east across the mouth of Otago Harbour; Aramoana settlement to the lower right
Otago Harbour entrance, Otago, New Zealand, 12th. Dec. 2010 - Flickr - PhillipC
Aerial view to the east across the entrance to Otago Harbour, Aramoana is just below the centre of the picture, with the mudflats and mole clearly visible.

The settlement is located on a sand dune spit at the mouth of the Otago Harbour, opposite the end of the Otago Peninsula. The main channel of the harbour is kept clear by the Aramoana mole, an artificial breakwater which extends for 1200 metres from Aramoana. The mole was originally intended to extend another 600 meters into the ocean, however due to tidal patterns and the instability of the construction, no attempt to extend beyond the current length was thought to be possible.

To the southwestern side of the township extend expansive salty mudflats from the head of the Aramoana Spit around the harbourside to the township of Te Ngaru. This area is a protected Wildlife Sanctuary, which hosts a range of plant and animal life, both native and exotic.

On the other side of the Spit is an expanse of beach, truncated by the Aramoana Mole. The beach and sand dunes to the east are known as Shelly Beach. The beach to the west is known as Big Beach and extends for over two kilometres. At points along this beach, steep rockfaces come down to the waterline. These are well used for practical training by local rock-climbers. Seals can be found sun bathing on the rocks of the spit.

Save Aramoana Campaign

New Zealand Sea Lions at The Spit, Aramoana
Endangered New Zealand sea lions resting at the end of Aramoana spit, the site of the Aramoana Pilot's Wharf.

In the late 1970s Aramoana was proposed as the site of a major aluminium smelter by a consortium of New Zealand-based Fletcher Challenge, Australia's CSR Limited and Swiss firm Alusuisse. An aluminium smelter was already operating at Tiwai Point when the smelter at Aramoana was proposed.

The Save Aramoana Campaign was formed in 1974 to oppose the smelter. Among the leaders were three Otago psychologists: Peter Bradshaw, Jules Older and Richard Thomson. A large number of Otago artists and performers also contributed to the successful drive to save Aramoana.

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