HistoryTapanui is situated 35kms north-east of Gore. The town is at the centre of rich agricultural country and a forestry industry. The township was founded as a result of sawmilling with a survey being completed in 1867. The post office was opened in the same year and sections were put up for sale in 1868 and 1869. Banks arrived in 1877 and a courthouse was built the following year. The Tapanui School was opened in 1878 and became a District High in 1902. In 1976 this divided into Blue Mountain College and Tapanui Primary School. Through its history Tapanui has been typical of South Otago service towns with storekeepers, stock and station agents, service agencies, and industries for processing farming products. Other industries included a brick kiln, flour mills, a feelmongery, furniture and woodware manufacturer, cheese factory, a line flax mill with a hostel during WWII, small coalmines, and an engineering shop. Additionally, a cottage hospital was opened in 1912. This closed in 1996 after the medical centre was opened the previous year.
For almost a hundred years, the town was serviced by the Tapanui Branch railway line, which despite its name never actually terminated in Tapanui. This line was formally opened in late 1880 and closed after being damaged by severe flooding in the region in October 1978.
Like many areas in the Clutha District Tapanui has suffered from centralisation and the depopulation which comes with it, however the town continues to have a widespread farming community, a sawmill, and two schools.