Help sought for Otautau book

Historian and researcher Suzie Best among some of the many files of research she has undertaken to write Between River & Stream: Tale of a Town that Shouldn't Have Been (the first 50 years of Otautau - Book 1), Bush Tracks & Bullocks which will be on sale next year in time to celebrate 150 years of Otautau township.

WITH more than five years dedicated to researching the early history of Otautau and surrounds, historian, archivist and researcher Suzie Best is keen to hear from people who have any information about the area.

Best was still deep in the research process for her book — Between River & Stream: Tale of a Town that Shouldn’t Have Been (First 50 Years of Otautau — Book 1), Bush Tracks & Bullocks and was keen to hear from families who had descended from the earliest settlers in the township.

These included the Campbell, Cassels, Dodds, Lawson, Lynch, McDonald, McIvor, Newsome, Price, Quin, Small, Smith, Tilyard and Walker families.

She was particularly interested in family stories, photographs of people and the area, and early maps.

So far, she had at least 25 thick folders full of information.

Part of reason to write the book was to help preserve the important early history of the area, she said.

It was while working at the Otautau Museum about five years ago when she was inspired to take on the enterprise.

“People kept asking about the early history… but I noticed what was written didn’t correlate with what I knew.

“It evolved from there… with me going back to the early records to find out.”

She also hoped the book would be used as a resource for people to use and build their own knowledge base and add their own personal stories to.

Subjects varied from pre-European to pioneer settlers, first run holders and stations to towns and trades, religions, healthcare, education and recreation.

Best also acknowledged Murray and Gaye Campbell who had offered to edit the book.

“Murray was also a descendent of the first people to build a residential house in Otautau.”

She hoped pre-orders for her book would be available mid-2022 with publication to coincide with the 150 years of Otautau township celebrations being organised by Otautau Promotions for December next year.

Proceeds from book sales would go to historical groups and institutions which also preserved the early history of Western Southland, such as Waiau Library, Otautau Museum and Riverton’s Te Hikoi Museum, she said.

Having gleaned so much information, Best hoped to produce a second volume, which would focus on residents and railways.

Best can be contacted via email – or by phoning 027 211 4675.

  • For more information, go to