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Westport

Westport is a town in the West Coast region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is on the northern bank and at the mouth of the Buller River, close by the prominent headland of Cape Foulwind. It is connected via State Highway 6 with Greymouth, 100km to the south, and with Nelson in the northeast, via the Buller Gorge.The town is thought to have been named after Westport, County Mayo in Ireland, although the choice of name was no doubt also guided by the town's location. The population of the Westport urban area was 3,900 in the 2006 census, an increase of 117 from 2001. Including the surrounding area of Orowaiti, the 2006 population was 4,512. The Buller District Council gives a 2007 population of about 5,000.HistoryThere is evidence that Māori settlers lived in the Buller area from very early on. The settlers appeared to live mostly coastal lives, though they explored the mountains for pounamu, which they then traded with other iwi.The first wave of European settlers came to Westport in 1861 as gold miners, and the first European vessel known to have entered the river was the sealing schooner Three Brothers in 1884. The 1880s saw many exploratory parties of geologists and surveyors combing the area for the presence of valuable resources and taking the measure of the land. Amongst them were Charles Heaphy, William Fox and Thomas Brunner. While gold brought initial interest to the area, and for example, led to large areas of the coastal areas being dredged for the valuable mineral, the area soon became much more famous for coal mining, still a dominant concern in the region today.
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