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Central Otago Gold Heritage



They came in their thousands – Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Chinese, Italians and others – pioneers; adventurers – willing to break new frontiers and risk everything to seek their fortunes on the Central Otago goldfields.

Those hardy men ventured into mountain ranges and swift rivers, they endured searing summers and freezing winters, experienced huge thrills and tremendous sorrow, facilitated booming commerce and created technological innovations that led the world. These people shaped a landscape and left a social and cultural legacy that is part of what makes Central Otago so unique.

Discover towering sluiced cliffs, herringbone tailings and tailing piles, tunnels, water races, tailraces, dams, mining equipment, substantial machinery, impressive stone masonry, mud-brick cottages and assorted relics. The region’s dry continental climate has ensured all has been preserved, much as it was.

The range of evidence represents different types of gold mining, changing technology and miners’ lifestyles. Many of today’s towns are born of the gold rush era.

Central Otago rivers were rich with gold and the focus of the early alluvial mining of river flats and shallows during the first rush in the early 1860s. Dredging (1880s–1920s) ploughed the riverbeds and eventually the inland terraces and beyond and is responsible for most of the altered landscapes.

Hard-rock mining of the quartz reefs (most active 1860s–1880s) required different techniques and machinery. The third rush (1950s-1960s) reworked some old fields.

Some 2-million ounces of gold was taken out of Otago by June 1867. Exactly how much more was found, is uncertain. Nevertheless, richness continues to abound in the landscapes and relics that remain.

Follow in the footsteps of the adventurers before you. Marvel at their feats, be awed by their audacity and revel in the excitement of your discoveries and the historic treasures on the Central Otago goldfields.
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