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. In 1865–66 gold was discovered at Okarito, Bruce Bay (the scene of the Hunt's Duffer gold rush), around Charleston and along the Grey River.
Miners were attracted from the Central Otago Gold Rush, and from Victoria, Australia where the Victorian gold rush had nearly finished and by the end of 1864 there were an estimated 1800 prospectors on the West Coast, with many in the Hokitika area. Hokitika was in 1866 the most populous settlement in New Zealand with a population of more than 25,000, and boasted more than 100 pubs.
The Canterbury Provincial Council in Christchurch tasked their provincial engineer, Edward Dobson, to examine every possible pass to the West Coast from the watersheds of the Waimakariri, Taramakau and Hurunui Rivers. After finishing his examination, he declared that "Arthur's pass" was by far the most suitable to get to the gold fields; his son Arthur had discovered a pass in 1864. The provincial government decided that a road was to be built between Christchurch and Hokitika over Arthur's Pass, a distance of 156 miles (251 km), and Edward Dobson was put in charge of the project. The road was opened on 20 March 1866.
In 1867 the rush began to decline, though gold mining continued on the Coast for some years. In the 1880s, quartz miners at Bullendale and Reefton were the first users of electricity in New Zealand.
The main towns on the West Coast had been established, as well as many gold rush towns like Okarito (at one time the largest town on the Coast) and Charlestown (later renamed Charleston), which both almost vanished when the miners moved on. The Coast was the second-richest gold-bearing area of New Zealand after Otago.
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- McKinnon, M. (ed.) New Zealand Historical Atlas: Ko Papatuanuku e Takoto Nei (Auckland, David Bateman, 1997) ppl,44. ISBN 1-86953-335-6
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