Winton is a town in Southland, New Zealand. It is located close to the east bank of the Oreti River, 30 kilometres north of Invercargill and 50 kilometres south of Lumsden. It is named after Thomas Winton, a local stockman who lived in the area in the 1850s. Winton has a population of 2,088 as of 2006. The district thrived with the development of sheep and fat-lamb farms in the early 1900s. Later, dairy farming became the staple economy, although the town has also seen sawmills, and flax and linen-flax industries. Today Winton thrives as an agricultural service town and stop-off for travellers on the Invercargill–Queenstown highway. Its population is not declining, partly because farmers retire there, attracted by a climate that is warmer, drier and calmer than Invercargill or Southland’s coastal districts. Population increases have also been driven by an influx of dairy workers who have migrated with their families from the Philippines. Local businesses, worship centres and schools have welcomed the new community members.
Minnie Dean, the only woman ever hanged in New Zealand, is buried in Winton cemetery.
Winton was formerly a railway junction but is no longer served by any trains. On 22 February 1871, a railway line from Invercargill was opened to Winton, built to the international standard gauge of 1,435mm. This was the furthest extent of Southland's standard gauge network, and the next section to Caroline was built to New Zealand's national track gauge, 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge railway. This extension opened on 20 October 1875, ending Winton's 4.5 years as a railway terminus, and two months later, the line back to Invercargill was converted to 1,067mm gauge. This line grew to be the Kingston Branch. In 1883, a bush tramway was built eastwards from Winton, and in the 1890s, it was rebuilt to railway standards as a branch line and opened as the Hedgehope Branch on 17 July 1899. It established Winton as a railway junction, and the town functioned in this capacity until 1 January 1968, when the Hedgehope Branch closed. The Kingston line, once one of the more important lines in the country, declined during the 1970s, and most of it closed on 13 December 1982, including the portion through Winton. Today, little remains of Winton's railway, though its route can be discerned.