'Undiscovered' Otago
Kate Wilson, newly elected Strath Taieri community board chairperson, is passionate about undiscovered Otago. And also about "Undiscovered Otago", her tourist promotion idea that takes an ordinary bit of Otago - highway 87 - and turns it into a tourist destination, with its own brand, promotional material, participating businesses, the works.

Those of us who live here, and pay a bit of attention to our surroundings, know that almost everywhere you care to look in Central there are stories. Small fragments of undiscovered Otago. Some attract the attention of professional story-tellers and become well known. Some were known to our parents and grandparents, but over the years have slipped from our memories.

Our history didn't begin when the first settlers arrived, but even if it had, there's plenty of it that we know too little about.

How many people know the story of the miners killed in a snowstorm at Gorge Creek and commemorated by a white cross on the hillside? Or can explain why there are gravestones in a St Bathans cemetery with inscriptions in Welsh. Who knows how to find Lion Rock or Tiger Hill?

My 85-year-old aunt has childhood memories of her parents pointing out the Judge's Head near Millers Flat when driving to and from Dunedin. Do families still do that?

The story of the lonely graves and The Man Who Buried Somebody's Darling attracted national attention in the TV1 series Epitaph, and in the book of the same name. A good story, all the more interesting for being quite different in fact than in the mythology. A few people go out of their way to visit them, but the lonely graves are not a tourist Mecca. Put together with a day's worth of other local stories, ancient and modern, and maybe there's a marketable package - another 'undiscovered' Otago.

Visitors to our region, especially from other cultures and far away places, find those stories fascinating. More than just scenery and a succession of similar hotel rooms, free independent travellers, frequently well-educated baby boomers with plenty of time, and money, seek the texture, taste and smell of the places they visit.

Our stories are unique to us. Sharing them with other people enriches both parties. Making a business out of that, especially a business that helps keep rural communities alive, is the best sort of local enterprise.

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