Balfour, New Zealand
Balfour is a small town located in the Southland Region of New Zealand. According to the 2001 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, it has a usually resident population of 135, unchanged from the previous census in 1996.
Accounts of Balfour's naming differ: according to one report, it was named after an employee of the Waimea Company who lived there; alternatively it may have been named after James Melville Balfour, Marine Engineer to the New Zealand Government and uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Balfour is located between the Hokonui Hills and the Mataura River in the Waimea Plains, and is about fifteen kilometres southeast of Lumsden. It is located on New Zealand State Highway 94, the main road linking Gore with the tourist destination of Milford Sound.
In 1880, the Waimea Plains Railway was opened; it linked Gore on the Main South Line with Lumsden on the Kingston Branch and passed through Balfour. The line was an important economic link for many years, and the original Kingston Flyers that gave their name to today's Kingston Flyer tourist train in Kingston passed through Balfour on their way to Gore or Dunedin from the 1890s through to Easter 1957.
With the improvement of road transportation and changes in government regulations, the railway lost its profitability, and in 1971, most of it was closed. Balfour now became the terminus of a short branch line from Lumsden, and it was hoped that shipments of wheat from surrounding farms would provide sufficient traffic to keep the line open. Unfortunately, the quantities of traffic desired from Balfour did not eventuate and the railway was closed on 15 January 1978. Today, the old Balfour station platform has been incorporated into a children's playground.
The town's industry is predominantly agricultural. In the surrounding area, cattle, sheep, grain, and deer are farmed. A dairy factory once operated in the town. Dairy farming has again become economically important in recent years. A lime works, started in 1910, still operates.
- Statistics New Zealand, "Balfour Community Profile", accessed 3 November 2007.
- Reed, A.W. (2002) The Reed dictionary of New Zealand place names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-790-00761-4.
- "The Late Messrs Balfour and Paterson", Otago Daily Times, 23 Dec. 1869, p. 2
- Paul Gittins (1997), Epitaph, Auckland: Random House, p. 160
- David Leitch and Brian Scott, Exploring New Zealand's Ghost Railways, revised edition (Wellington: Grantham House, 1998 ), 111-12.
- Northern Southland Naturally, "Balfour", accessed 3 November 2007.
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