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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Hauraki, Thames, and Ohinemuri Goldfields

In 1857 Charles Heaphy visited the deserted Coromandel diggings and reported the existence of very considerable quartz deposits. This was confirmed two years later by Hochstetter and Von Haast. No attempt to exploit the field was made until September 1861, when the Auckland Provincial Government became concerned at the exodus to Otago. Although Donald McLean arranged with the Maoris to permit prospectors to explore the region, few miners took advantage of this before mid 1862, when parties of Australians arrived from Otago; however, tensions arising from the “King” movement soon led to the partial abandonment of their workings. Thames was proclaimed a goldfield in February 1864, but, although many quartz miners made their way to the new field, their influx did not reach “rush” proportions until 1867–68, when alluvial miners began to arrive from the West Coast. Those who came soon found that there was little alluvial gold in the district; others, who had staked rich quartz reefs, found they lacked capital to install the costly machinery necessary to work their claims. Groups of miners formed partnerships; in 1868 there were over 600 such partnerships and 320 small companies in existence. The first battery, “Great Expectation”, was erected in November 1867, and set the style for the whole field. Despite this, the cost of working quartz claims remained prohibitive and most of the smaller groups were forced to sell their interests to the large companies formed by such Auckland financiers as F. Whitaker, Thomas Russell, R. Graham, and John Logan Campbell. After 1869, the last year of the small companies' bonanza, returns fell rapidly and many who had originally rushed to the field were forced to become labourers in the employ of the large companies. The Hauraki Thames, and Ohinemuri gold-fields were the scene of the last major gold rush in New Zealand, and after the first boom the surviving companies settled down to a long period of steady production which lasted into the twentieth century.