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Central Otago Gold Rush

Central Otago Gold Rush

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The Central Otago Gold Rush (often simply called the Otago gold rush) was a gold rush
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

 that occurred during the 1860s in Central Otago
Central Otago
Central Otago is the inland part of the New Zealand region of Otago in the South Island. The area commonly known as Central Otago includes both the Central Otago District and the Queenstown-Lakes District to the west....

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. Constituting the country's biggest gold strike, the discovery of gold in Otago led to a rapid influx of foreign miners - many of them veterans of other hunts for the precious metal in California
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

 and Victoria
Victorian gold rush
The Victorian gold rush was a period in the history of Victoria, Australia approximately between 1851 and the late 1860s. In 10 years the Australian population nearly tripled.- Overview :During this era Victoria dominated the world's gold output...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

.

The rush started at Gabriel's Gully
Gabriel's Gully
Gabriel's Gully is a locality in Otago, New Zealand, three kilometres from Lawrence township and close to the Tuapeka River.The discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully by Gabriel Read in May 1861 led to the Central Otago goldrush...

 but spread throughout much of Central Otago, leading to the rapid expansion and commercialisation of the new colonial settlement of Dunedin
Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

, which quickly grew to be New Zealand's largest city. However, only a few years later, most of the smaller new settlements were deserted again, and gold extraction became a more commercialised, long-term activity.

Previous gold finds in New Zealand


Previously gold had been found in small quantities in the Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula lies in the North Island of New Zealand. It is part of the Waikato Region and Thames-Coromandel District and extends 85 kilometres north from the western end of the Bay of Plenty, forming a natural barrier to protect the Hauraki Gulf and the Firth of Thames in the west...

 (by visiting whalers) and near Nelson
Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, and is the economic and cultural centre of the Nelson-Tasman region. Established in 1841, it is the second oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island....

 in 1842. Commercial interests in Auckland
Auckland
The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

 offered a £500 prize for anyone who could find payable quantities of gold anywhere nearby in the 1850s, at a time when some New Zealand settlers were leaving for the California
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

 and Australian
Victorian gold rush
The Victorian gold rush was a period in the history of Victoria, Australia approximately between 1851 and the late 1860s. In 10 years the Australian population nearly tripled.- Overview :During this era Victoria dominated the world's gold output...

 gold rushes. In September 1852, Charles Ring, a timber merchant, claimed the prize for a find in Coromandel. A brief gold rush ensued around Coromandel
Coromandel, New Zealand
Coromandel is the name of a town and harbour on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula, which is on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand...

 township, Cape Colville
Cape Colville
Cape Colville is the northernmost point of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island. It lies 85 kilometres north of Thames, and 70 kilometres northeast of the city of Auckland, on the other side of the Hauraki Gulf....

 and Mercury Bay
Mercury Bay
Mercury Bay is a large V-shaped bay on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand. This bay was named by the English navigator Captain James Cook during his exploratory expeditions. By the Māori it was named Te-Whanganui-o-Hei, the great bay of Hei.On November...

 but only £1500 of gold was accessible in river silt, although more was in quartz veins where it was inaccessible to individual prospectors. The rush lasted only about three months.

A find in the Aorere Valley
Aorere River
The Aorere River is in the South Island of New Zealand.The headwaters are within Kahurangi National Park. The river flows generally northwards for 40 kilometres, before draining into Golden Bay at the town of Collingwood....

 near Collingwood
Collingwood, New Zealand
Collingwood is a town in the north-west corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located in the hub of the Aorere Valley, in the western half of the Golden Bay area.-Geography:The town lies at the end of State Highway 60 in Golden Bay...

 in 1856 proved more successful, with 1500 miners converging on the district and removing about £150,000 of gold over the next decade, after which the gold was exhausted. The presence of gold in Otago and on the West Coast
West Coast, New Zealand
The West Coast is one of the administrative regions of New Zealand, located on the west coast of the South Island, and is one of the more remote and most sparsely populated areas of the country. It is made up of three districts: Buller, Grey and Westland...

 during this time was known, but the geology of the land was different from that of other major gold-bearing areas, and it was assumed the gold would amount to little.

Previous gold finds in Otago


Māori had long known of the existence of gold in Central Otago, but having no knowledge of metallurgy had no use for the ore. For a precious material they relied on greenstone for weaponry and tools, and used greenstone, obsidian
Obsidian
Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth...

 and bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 carving for jewellery.

The first known European discovery of gold in Otago was at Goodwood, near Palmerston
Palmerston, New Zealand
The town of Palmerston, in New Zealand's South Island lies 50 kilometres to the north of the city of Dunedin. It is the largest town in the Waihemo Ward of the Waitaki District with a population of 890 residents...

 in October 1851. The discovery was of very small size, however, and no rush ensued. In any case, the settlement of Dunedin was just three years old, and more practical matters were of higher importance to the young town.

Further discoveries around the Mataura River
Mataura River
The Mataura River is in the Southland Region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is 190 kilometres in length.The river's headwaters are located in mountains to the south of Lake Wakatipu. From there it flows southeast towards Gore, where it turns southward...

 in 1856 and the Dunstan Range in 1858 stirred some interest, but again this was minimal. A further discovery near the Lindis Pass
Lindis Pass
Lindis Pass is located in the South Island of New Zealand.It lies between the towns of Cromwell in Central Otago and Omarama in North Otago, on the main inland route to the Mackenzie Basin in Canterbury....

 in early 1861 finally started producing flickers of interest from around the South Island, with reports of large numbers of miners travelling inland from Oamaru
Oamaru
Oamaru , the largest town in North Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand, is the main town in the Waitaki District. It is 80 kilometres south of Timaru and 120 kilometres north of Dunedin, on the Pacific coast, and State Highway 1 and the railway Main South Line connects it to both...

 to stake their claims. It was not until two months later, however, that the discovery which was to cause the major influx of prospectors occurred.

Main rush



Gabriel's Gully


Gabriel Read
Gabriel Read
Gabriel Read was an Australian gold prospector who, after working on the goldfields of California and Victoria, Australia travelled to New Zealand, having heard rumours of gold being found in Mataura, Southland. On 20 May 1861, he discovered gold close to the banks of the Tuapeka River in Otago,...

, an Australian prospector
Prospecting
Prospecting is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.Prospecting is a small-scale form of mineral exploration which is an organised, large scale effort undertaken by mineral resource companies to find commercially viable ore...

 who had hunted gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 in both California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and Victoria, Australia, discovered gold in a creek bed at Gabriel's Gully
Gabriel's Gully
Gabriel's Gully is a locality in Otago, New Zealand, three kilometres from Lawrence township and close to the Tuapeka River.The discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully by Gabriel Read in May 1861 led to the Central Otago goldrush...

, close to the banks of the Tuapeka River
Tuapeka River
The Tuapeka River is located in Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. It is a tributary of the Clutha River, which it joins at Tuapeka Mouth between Roxburgh and Balclutha....

 near Lawrence
Lawrence, New Zealand
Lawrence is a small town of 474 inhabitants in Otago, in New Zealand's South Island. It is located on State Highway 8, the main route from Dunedin to the inland towns of Queenstown and Alexandra...

 on 20 May 1861. "At a place where a kind of road crossed on a shallow bar I shovelled away about two and a half feet of gravel, arrived at a beautiful soft slate and saw the gold shining like the stars in Orion on a dark frosty night".

The public heard about Read's discovery via a letter published in the Otago Witness on 8 June 1861, documenting a ten day long prospecting tour he had made. There was little reaction at first until John Hardy of the Provincial Council stated that himself and Read had prospected country "about 31 miles long by five broad, and in every hole they had sunk they had found the precious metal." With this statement, the gold rush began.

Arrival of prospectors


By Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 14,000 prospectors were on the Tuapeka and Waipori fields. Within a year, the region's population swelled greatly, growing by 400 per cent between 1861 and 1864, with prospectors swarming from the dwindling Australian goldfields. A second major discovery in 1862, close to the modern town of Cromwell
Cromwell, New Zealand
Cromwell is a town in Central Otago in the Otago region of New Zealand.It is situated between State Highway 6 and State Highway 8 leading to the Lindis Pass, 75 km northeast, and Alexandra, 33 km south. The road to Alexandra winds through the Cromwell Gorge...

, did nothing to dissuade new hopefuls, and prospectors and miners staked claims from the Shotover River
Shotover River
The Shotover River is located in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. The name correctly suggests that this 60 kilometre-long river is fast flowing, with numerous rapids...

 in the west through to Naseby
Naseby, New Zealand
Naseby is a small town, formerly a borough, in the Maniototo area of Central Otago, New Zealand. It is named after a village in Northamptonshire, England....

 in the north. By the end of 1863, the real gold rush was over, but companies continued to mine the alluvial gold. The number of miners reached its maximum of 18,000 in February 1864.

Gabriel’s Gully led to the discovery of further goldfields within Central Otago. In 1862, the Cardrona
Cardrona, New Zealand
Cardrona is the name of a locality, skifield and beer in New Zealand. Established as a gold rush township in the 1860s on the banks of the small river of the same name, it is known for its distinctive hotel of gold rush vintage which is on the opposite side of the river to the original township of...

, Shotover River
Shotover River
The Shotover River is located in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. The name correctly suggests that this 60 kilometre-long river is fast flowing, with numerous rapids...

, Arrow River, Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu is an inland lake in the South Island of New Zealand. It is in the southwest corner of Otago Region, near its boundary with Southland.With a length of , it is New Zealand's longest lake, and, at , its third largest...

 and the Dunstan
Dunstan
Dunstan was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church...

 goldfields were discovered, and also Nokomai in 1863 (Carryer, 1994).

Life in mining communities


Read’s discovery of gold sparked news to Dunedin
Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

 residents and intending immigrants, informing them of gold in this area. Many left their homes and families and traveled long distances for the hope of striking it rich. These goldfields all gave rise to the construction and development of mining towns and communities. At first, these communities were temporarily built, with shops, hotels and miners huts all made from basic canvas or calico material hoisted by timber (Carryer, 1994). As the scope of the goldfields became larger, communities settled and became more permanent. The temporary canvas stores, hotels and huts previously made, were reconstructed with timber and concrete. Evidence
Evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

 such as material artefacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

, foundations of huts and buildings, and photographs from the Central Otago goldfields provide us with information about the labour and social roles of men and women in the 19th Century.

Men in mining communities


As the news of the first discovery of gold at Gabriel’s Gully reached the citizens of Dunedin and the rest of the world, prospectors immediately left their homes in search for gold. The majority of theses prospectors were men, including such, labourers and tradesmen, in their late teens and twenties (Ell, 1995).
Like many of the gold prospectors, professional businessmen made their way to the goldfields to establish services for the miners. These included stores, such as post offices, banks, pubs, hotels and hardware stores. Here, men owned these businesses, often making more money than the miners.

Evidence


Historical evidence of men as miners or businessmen in the 19th Century Central Otago goldfields is relevantly readily available. For mining men, this evidence is available in forms of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, written records are available of when gold mines at specific locations were discovered, and by whom. Census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 statistics of the male population in these areas, and photographs of men at the goldfields mining are also available, all of which provide inferential evidence about the labour roles in these communities. This in turn provides information about labour and social roles within the community. Such information includes that of the ownership
Ownership
Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties. The concept of ownership has...

 and management
Management
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

 of stores and hotels, such as the bank and gold office at Maori Point (Bank of New Zealand) in the 1860s, managed by G. M. Ross (Hall-Jones, n.d.).

Archaeological evidence is also readily available. Excavations at various sites throughout Otago show evidence of an array of mining techniques, including ground sluicing, hydraulic sluicing and hydraulic elevating. Tailings
Tailings
Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, leach residue, or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore...

 (the materials left over after the removal of the uneconomic fraction (gangue) of the ore) also provide some of the archaeological evidence from Otago gold mine sites. Midden analysis from camp and settylement sites provides information about diet, with evidence of a preference for beef and lamb in the European camps, and a preference for pork within the Chinese camps.

Artefactual evidence found during excavations includes blue and white ceramics, cooking and eating utensils, metal objects, such as buttons, nails and tin boxes (flint boxes, tobacco boxes) and an exceedingly high number of alcohol glass bottles. It is possible these glass bottles were recycled, so archaeologists cannot draw definite conclusions as to alcohol consumption. Within the Chinese camps (such as the Lawrence
Lawrence, New Zealand
Lawrence is a small town of 474 inhabitants in Otago, in New Zealand's South Island. It is located on State Highway 8, the main route from Dunedin to the inland towns of Queenstown and Alexandra...

 Chinese camp) artefacts include gambling tokens and Chinese coins as well as celadon
Celadon
Celadon is a term for ceramics denoting both a type of glaze and a ware of a specific color, also called celadon. This type of ware was invented in ancient China, such as in the Zhejiang province...

 earthwares.

Although many men wrote diaries and memoirs about their lives in the mining communities, little mention or information was given about the significance of women’s labour and social roles. Archaeological evidence, however, suggests that many women on the goldfields took significant roles in both mining and the community in general.

Women in mining communities


On the 19th century goldfields, women played significant social and labour roles, as wives, mothers
Mothers
Mothers was a club in Erdington, near Birmingham, England during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mothers opened above an old furniture store in Erdington High Street on August 9, 1968. The club, run by John 'Spud' Taylor and promoter Phil Myatt, closed its doors on 3 January 1971...

, prostitutes, business women and ‘Colonial Helpmeets’ (wives who worked alongside their husbands) (Dickinson, 1993). Women within these communities were young and single, or married with a family. As gold was in the midst of discovery, many wives and children of the male prospectors did not travel in search of gold to begin with. These wives and children moved to the goldfields as towns developed with hotels, stores and schools. However, women were present on these goldfields from the very first discovery of gold in 1861, at Gabriel’s Gully. An example is Janet Robertson, who lived with her husband in a small cottage in Tuapeka. It was here in her cottage, where Gabriel Read wrote his discovery letter of gold to the Otago Provincial Council (Dickinson, 1993). As the news of this goldfield in Gabriel's Gully spread, prospectors engaged in the area, and Janet opened up her home, cooked meals and tended to the miners, as they passed through.

Evidence of another significant women present on the 19th Century Central Otago goldfields, was Susan Nugent-Wood, a well known writer in the 1860s and 1870s. Nugent-Wood, her husband John, and their children moved to Otago in 1861, as prospectors of gold. Nugent-Wood worked on the goldfields of Central Otago in several official positions (Smith, 2007). She wrote stories based on her life and roles on the Central Otago goldfields. These provide accounts of labour and social aspects of mining and gender in the 19th Century.

As the majority of women within these mining communities were married, many became widows, as their husbands died during mining related activities or diseases. These women, whose husbands owned stores or hotels, adopted ownership rights (Ell, 1995). Many became well known throughout the communities, amongst visitors, passing miners and local citizens. Archaeological evidence of a widow, who took over ownership rights following her husbands’ death, was Elizabeth Potts. Potts was given a legitimate license for the Victoria Hotel in Lawrence
Lawrence, New Zealand
Lawrence is a small town of 474 inhabitants in Otago, in New Zealand's South Island. It is located on State Highway 8, the main route from Dunedin to the inland towns of Queenstown and Alexandra...

 in 1869 (Tuapeka Times, 1869). This was recorded and published in the Tuapeka Times, 11 December 1869. This archaeological evidence provides information which suggests that women played significant labour and social roles within mining communities.

Excavation evidence


An excavation report written by P. G. Petchey, from the Golden Bar Mine between the Macraes Flat
Macraes Flat
Macraes Flat is a town in the Waitaki District in Otago, New Zealand. It is known as a mining town, with a long history of gold extraction. It is near Macraes Mine owned by OceanaGold Corporation. The town sits 55 km north of Dunedin in New Zealand's South Island....

 and Palmeston, Otago, shows that located in front of the main mine workings of ca.1897, archaeological material was found. This material was a small heart-shaped brooch with 13 glass diamonds (Petchey, 2005). This archaeological evidence suggests that women were present at this site, and within the Golden Bar goldfield. The exact occupation of women from this evidence is unknown, but indicates that women were present on the goldfields during the 19th Century gold rush in Otago.

Another excavation report by Petchey from the Macraes Flat mining area, presents items of children’s toys such as marbles, and a china doll’s leg amongst ruins of a house site (Petchey, 1995). This evidence is also useful to suggest men and their families engaged in mining activities and social life on the goldfields in the 19th Century.
Archaeological artefacts from 19th Century mining communities in Central Otago, suggest women and children were on site of the goldfields. It is unknown whether these artefacts belong to women who were miners or women who were domestic wives and mothers.

Results


The city of Dunedin
Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

 reaped many of the benefits, briefly becoming New Zealand's largest town even though it had only been founded in 1848. Many of the city's stately buildings date from this period of prosperity. New Zealand's first university, the University of Otago
University of Otago
The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 22,000 students enrolled during 2010.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it...

, was founded in 1869 with wealth derived from the goldfields.

However, the rapid decline in gold production from the mid 1860s led to a sharp drop in the province's population, and while not unprosperous, the far south of New Zealand never rose to such relative prominence again.

Later gold rushes


The Wakamarina River
Wakamarina River
The Wakamarina River is a river of the Marlborough Region of New Zealand's South Island. It flows generally northeast to from its origins in the Richmond Range to reach the Pelorus River at the settlement of Canvastown, ten kilometres west of Havelock....

 in Marlborough
Marlborough, New Zealand
Marlborough is one of the regions of New Zealand, located in the northeast of the South Island. Marlborough is a unitary authority, both a region and a district, and its council is located at Blenheim. Marlborough is known for its dry climate, the picturesque Marlborough Sounds, and sauvignon blanc...

 proved to have gold in 1862, and 6,000 miners flocked to the district. Although they found alluvial gold, there were no large deposits.

The West Coast
West Coast, New Zealand
The West Coast is one of the administrative regions of New Zealand, located on the west coast of the South Island, and is one of the more remote and most sparsely populated areas of the country. It is made up of three districts: Buller, Grey and Westland...

 of the South Island
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

 was the second-richest gold-bearing area of New Zealand after Otago, and gold was discovered in 1865-6 at Okarito, Bruce Bay
Bruce Bay
Bruce Bay or Mahitahi is a bay in South Westland, New Zealand, New Zealand on the Tasman Sea. It is south of the mouth of the Mahitahi River, 80 km from Haast Junction and 224 km from Hokitika...

, around Charleston
Charleston, New Zealand
Charleston is a village in the South Island of New Zealand located 30 km south of Westport. It was founded as a goldmining town after a major goldrush in 1867, and is now an adventure tourist village noted for its extensive limestone caves and caving experiences.- History :Charleston’s origins...

 and along the Grey River. Miners were attracted from Victoria, Australia where the gold rush was near an end. In 1867 this boom also began to decline, though gold mining continued on the coast for a considerable time after this. In the 1880s, quartz miners at Bullendale
Bullendale
Bullendale is an abandoned mining settlement in Otago, New Zealand. It is the site of New Zealand's first industrial hydro-electric power plant. Located in rugged and remote countryside, it has survived to become of historical significance, and several archaeological surveys have been conducted...

 and Reefton were the first users of electricity in New Zealand.

Southland
Southland Region
Southland is New Zealand's southernmost region and is also a district within that region. It consists mainly of the southwestern portion of the South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura...

 also had a number of smaller scale gold rushes during the later half of the 19th century. The first goldmining in Southland took place in 1860 on the banks of the Mataura River
Mataura River
The Mataura River is in the Southland Region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is 190 kilometres in length.The river's headwaters are located in mountains to the south of Lake Wakatipu. From there it flows southeast towards Gore, where it turns southward...

 and its tributaries (and later would help settlements such as Waikaia
Waikaia
Waikaia, formerly known as Switzers, is a town in the Southland Region of New Zealand's South Island. From 1909 until 1959, it was the terminus of the Waikaia Branch railway....

 and Nokomai flourish). However the first "gold rush" wasn't until the mid-1860s when fine gold was discovered in the black sands of Orepuki
Orepuki
Orepuki in Southland, New Zealand is a small country township on the coast of Te Waewae Bay some 20 minutes from Riverton, 15 minutes from Tuatapere and 50 minutes from Invercargill that sits at the foot of the Longwood Range...

 beach. Miners followed the creeks up into the foothills of the Longwoods to where the richest gold was to be had. This activity led to the founding of mining settlements such as Orepuki
Orepuki
Orepuki in Southland, New Zealand is a small country township on the coast of Te Waewae Bay some 20 minutes from Riverton, 15 minutes from Tuatapere and 50 minutes from Invercargill that sits at the foot of the Longwood Range...

 and Round Hill (the Chinese miners and shop owners essentially ran their own town known colloquially to Europeans as "Canton").

Gold was long known to exist at Thames
Thames, New Zealand
Thames is a town at the southwestern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island. It is located on the Firth of Thames close to the mouth of the Waihou River. The town is the seat of the Thames-Coromandel District Council....

, but exploitation was not possible during the New Zealand land wars
New Zealand land wars
The New Zealand Wars, sometimes called the Land Wars and also once called the Māori Wars, were a series of armed conflicts that took place in New Zealand between 1845 and 1872...

. In 1867 miners arrived from the West Coast, but the gold was in quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 veins, and few miners had the capital needed to extract it. Some stayed on as workers for the companies which could fund the processing.

Commercial extraction



After the main gold rush, miners began laboriously reworking the goldfields. About 5,000 European miners remained in 1871, joined by thousands of Chinese miners invited by the province to help rework the area. There was friction not only between European and Chinese miners, which contributed to the introduction of the New Zealand head tax
New Zealand head tax
New Zealand imposed a poll tax on Chinese immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The poll tax was effectively lifted in the 1930s following the invasion of China by Japan, and was finally repealed in 1944...

, but also between miners and settlers over conflicting land use.

Attention turned to the gravel beds of the Clutha River, with a number of attempts to develop a steam-powered mechanical gold dredge. These finally met with success in 1881 when the Dunedin became the world's first commercially successful gold dredge. The Dunedin continued operation until 1901, recovering a total of 17,000 ounces (530 kg) of gold.

The mining has had a considerable environmental impact. In 1920 the Rivers Commission estimated that 300 million cubic yards of material had been moved by mining activity in the Clutha river catchment. At that time an estimated 40 million cubic yards had been washed out to sea with a further 60 million in the river. (The remainder was still on riverbanks). This had resulted in measured aggradation of the river bottom of as much as 5 metres.

Gold is still mined by OceanaGold
OceanaGold
OceanaGold Corporation OceanaGold is a significant Asia Pacific gold producer, with a portfolio of operating, development and exploration assets. Assets are located on the South Island of New Zealand and in northern Philippines...

 in commercial quantities in Otago at one site - Macraes Mine
Macraes Mine
Macraes Mine, in East Otago is New Zealand's largest gold mine, owned by OceanaGold Corporation, which consists of a large scale opencast mine. It is situated close to the settlement of Macraes Flat....

 inland from Palmerston
Palmerston, New Zealand
The town of Palmerston, in New Zealand's South Island lies 50 kilometres to the north of the city of Dunedin. It is the largest town in the Waihemo Ward of the Waitaki District with a population of 890 residents...

, which started operations in 1990. Macraes Mine, an opencast hard rock mining operation, processes more than 5 million tonnes of ore per year and had extracted 1.85 million ounces (57,500 kg) of gold by 2004.

The Otago gold rush in popular culture


Numerous folk songs, both contemporary and more recent, have been written about the gold rush. Of contemporary songs, "Bright Fine Gold", with its chorus of "Wangapeka, Tuapeka, bright fine gold" (sometimes rendered "One-a-pecker, two-a-pecker") is perhaps the best known. Most well-known of more recent songs is arguably Phil Garland's song Tuapeka Gold.

Martin Curtis
Martin Curtis
Martin Curtis is a leading New Zealand folksinger and songwriter. Born in Great Britain on February 7, 1944, he came to New Zealand in 1964. In 1976, he and his wife Kay went to Wanaka in Central Otago in the South Island to manage a youth hostel in the town for two weeks. They loved the place, and...

 wrote a folk-style song about the gold rush called "Gin and Raspberry." The lyrics are written in the voice of an unsuccessful gold prospector who envies the success of the largest gold mine in the Cardrona valley at the time, the "Gin and Raspberry" (supposedly so named because the owner would call out, "Gin and raspberry to all hands!" whenever a bucket of mined material yielded an ounce of gold. The singer laments, "an ounce to the bucket and we'd all sell our souls/For a taste of the gin and raspberry." The song has had several recordings, particularly by Gordon Bok.

See also

  • Mining in New Zealand
    Mining in New Zealand
    Mining in New Zealand began when the indigenous Māori quarried rock such as argillite in times prior to European colonisation. Mining by Europeans began in the latter half of the 19th century....

  • West Coast Gold Rush
    West Coast Gold Rush
    The West Coast Gold Rush on the West Coast of New Zealand from 1864 to 1867 populated the area, which up till then had been visited by few Europeans. Gold was found near the Taramakau River in 1864 by two Māori, Ihaia Tainui and Haimona Taukau...

  • Gold Fields (New Zealand electorate)
  • Goldfields Towns (New Zealand electorate)
    Goldfields Towns (New Zealand electorate)
    The Goldfields Towns electorate was a 19th century parliamentary electorate in the Otago Region of New Zealand.-History:The electorate existed from 1866 to 1870 for the term of the 4th New Zealand Parliament....

  • Archaeological evidence of gender in Central Otago mining communities

Further reading

  • King, M.
    Michael King
    Michael King, OBE was a New Zealand popular historian, author and biographer. He wrote or edited over 30 books on New Zealand topics, including The Penguin History of New Zealand, which was the most popular New Zealand book of 2004.-Life:King was born in Wellington to Eleanor and Commander Lewis...

    (2003). The Penguin History of New Zealand', ISBN 0-14-301867-1
  • McLaughlan, G. (ed.) (1995). Bateman New Zealand Encyclopedia (4th ed.). Auckland: David Bateman Ltd.
  • McLean, G. & Dalley, B. (eds.) Frontier of Dreams: The Story of New Zealand. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett. ISBN 1-86971-006-1
  • Miller, F.W.G. (1971). "Gold in Otago", in Knox, R. (ed.) New Zealand's Heritage, volume 2:. Wellington:Paul Hamlyn.
  • Oliver, W.H. (ed.) (1981). The Oxford History of New Zealand. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-558063-X

On life in mining communities


  • Carryer, B. (1994). The New Zealand GoldRushes, 1860–1870, Berkley Publishing, Browns Bay, Auckland, pp 5–6, 19.
  • Dickinson, J. (1993). ‘Picks, pans and petticoats: Women on the Central Otago goldfields’, BA(HONS) dissertation, Otago University, New Zealand.
  • Ell, G. (1995). GoldRush: Tales and Traditions of the New Zealand Goldfield, The Bush Press, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Forrest, J. (1961). Population and Settlement on the Otago Goldfields 1861-1870, New Zealand Geographer, 17, 1, pp64–86.
  • Glasson, H. A. (1957). The Golden Cobweb: a saga of the Otago goldfields, 1861–1864, Otago Daily Times & Witness Newspapers, Dunedin.
  • Hall-Jones, J. Goldfields of Otago: An Illustrated History, Craig Printing Co. Ltd, Invercargill, New Zealand, pp 122.
  • Harper, B. (1980). Petticoat Pioneers: South Island women of the Colonial Era, A. H. & A. W. REED LTD, Wellington, New Zealand pp184–189.
  • Mahalski, B. (2005). New Zealand’s Golden Days, Gilt Edge Publishing, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Petchey, P. G. (1995). Excavation Report Site 142/27: House Sites Site142/28: Stone Ruin Macraes Flat: For Macraes Mining Company, Dunedin, pp 10.
  • Petchey, P. G. (2005). Golden Bar Mine Macraes: Report for Oceana Gold Ltd, Southern Archaeology, Dunedin, pp 34.
  • Tuapeka Times. (1869, December 11). Licensing Meeting, pp 3.

External links