"THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS ".
In the mid 1800s gold was discovered in New Zealand in quite a few areas - West Coast of the South Island, Central Otago
( South of the South Island ), Coromandel Peninsula, ( East of Auckland), and at the Wakamarina River, ( Quite close to here - between Blenheim and Nelson ).
There is no commercial gold mining done in the Wakamarina area now, nowadays it is a prosperous farming and timber growing area.
The only commercial gold mining carried out in New Zealand today is in the open cast Martha Mine, at Waihi on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The Martha Mine at Waihi
In June this year, Canvastown celebrated the 150 year anniversary of the birth of the town. Many displays of mining equipment and photographs of yesteryear were on display in the School and Town Hall. Also out the back of the school there was a gold panning set-up for the visitors to try their luck and hopefully make their fortune . A truckload of gold bearing gravel was taken from the Wakamarina River and placed beside some water troughs . For a small fee ( to boost the school's funds ) the would be "miners " could pan ths gravel and hope to see "colour " ..
This proved very popular during the day, even our daughter and son-in-law tried their luck. Managed to get a couple of flakes, but not enough to retire on so it's back to work for them !
At the end of the day there was still quite a large pile of gold bearing gravel left so son-in-law asked the operators , "What are you going to do with all this left-over gravel ? They replied , I guess we will have to load it back onto the truck and dump it back in the river ! ". Son-in-law then offered to take it off their hands and take it home. This seemed to be a good suggestion so the operators readily agreed .. So now daughter and son-in-law have their own private gold mine - just waiting to make their fortunes !
But I digress ! When gold was discovered there followed a rush of miners looking to make
their fortune. When that goldfield was worked out they woud move to mine the next recently
discovered gold-field. One such area was the Wakamarina River Valley. As usual, the miners flocked to the river, staked their claim and looked forward to making their fortunes. A
settlement of tents soon sprang up and the name Canvastown was born. Although the tents
were eventually replaced by wooden huts, the name Canvastown remains to this day. By
May 1864 it's population was in excess of 4500. By the 1970s, the easily accessible areas
along the river had been worked out, leaving only the more difficult areas that required
sophisicated and expensive mining equipment.
Although no commercial mining is carried out now , the remains of the mining era can still be seen along the banks of the Wakamarina.
Although gold was found in these places, it was of no interest to the original inhabitants, the Maori. They saw no value in it, their most valued "mineral " was, ( and still is ) Poenamu, or as we know it, Greenstone or New Zealand jade. They used it for jewellery, woodworking tools, weapons and for trade. Found only on the West Coast of the South Island, all Poenamu belongs to the Maori people. (Non-Maori are not permitted to mine or collect it except by special permit issued by the local tribe. )