As time would tell, the big deposits were in Otago, the West Coast and on Coromandel Peninsula, but gold was also found elsewhere in New Zealand.
Golden Bay and Nelson
Golden Bay is not named for its sunshine, but for its gold. As early as 1853, traces were found in the Aorere valley, and larger deposits were opened up in 1857. Some 2,500 men spread out from Collingwood working alluvial gravels. Good gold was found elsewhere in Nelson in places such as the Mātakitaki valley, Mt Arthur, Wangapeka, and in the Buller Gorge at Lyell.
Wakamarina River, Marlborough
In 1864, gold was discovered in the Wakamarina River, a tributary of the Pelorus River. Up to 6,000 Otago miners rushed to the workings, as initially these were very rich. A tent town sprang up, with 3,000 men giving the name Canvastown to the area. But the river gravels were worked out quickly and the rush soon passed. Later, reef gold was also discovered, but it was low grade and the reefs were mainly worked for the tungsten mineral scheelite.
Preservation Inlet, Fiordland
Payable alluvial gold was dug from Coal Island in Preservation Inlet, Fiordland, in the 1880s. In the 1890s two small towns, Cromarty and Te Oneroa, were cut out of the bush as quartz reefs were found and hard-rock mines were used to excavate them. But the gold did not last, and by 1904 few miners remained.
Orepuki and Round Hill, Southland
In the 1860s patches of black sand on the beach at Orepuki, near Riverton on the Southland coast, were found to yield very fine gold and platinum. Sluicing soon won gold from coastal terraces. Other finds at nearby Round Hill proved even richer, and extensive sluicing operations continued until the 1950s. A distinct feature of Round Hill was the Chinese settlement of Canton, which housed around 300 Chinese miners in 1888.
Gold in Southland was also found in the Waiau catchment at Blackmount and the Mataura catchment around Waimumu, Waikaia and Nokomai.
Traces of gold were known from Cape Terawhiti, near today’s Wellington suburb of Karori, as early as 1852. In the 1870s and 1880s a number of quartz reefs were worked, but they yielded very little gold.
A legal thumping
Warden’s courts settled mining disputes. In Collingwood, warden James Mackay was presiding when a miner hotly disputed his ruling:
‘Mackay adjourned the proceedings while he “consulted in chambers”. In a few minutes they returned, Mackay smiling grimly, and the case was settled; but it was noticed that the miner’s eye was rapidly changing colour by the time he left the building’. 1
Once gold was discovered and an area proved workable, it could be declared a goldfield by provincial governments. However, there was little governance. In the late 1850s the rush to Collingwood in Golden Bay had exposed the lack of laws regulating goldfields. This prompted the Miners’ Code, which outlined procedures such as how claims were to be staked and disputes settled, and it gave rise to the Mining Act 1859. Gold wardens were appointed to oversee goldfields, and disputes were heard in the warden’s court.