Surrounded by bush with a mountainous backdrop, the remains of Waiuta provide a tantalising glimpse of the once bustling community that made its home here.
Waiuta was a close-knit community of people from diverse backgrounds which thrived in the face of the constant hardships and dangers of working in one of the country’s most successful quartz mines. Due to its isolation Waiuta had many of the services and facilities that were the envy of much larger towns. Sporting and social events created a strong sense of community and identity that former residents and descendants continue to maintain to this day.
The gold didn’t come easily. Mining was challenging with the narrowing gold bearing quartz reef plunging to great depths. Ingenuity and tenacity, including the sinking of New Zealand’s deepest shaft to nearly 900 m, of which 264 m were below sea level, created a highly successful and productive mine for over 45 years. Below ground conditions were tough with poor lighting and fumes making working conditions difficult. Many miners died young from damage to their lungs caused by inhalation of the ever-present quartz dust.
Waiuta was the longest-lived of the early West Coast gold mining settlements. Founded as a company town in 1907, the population reached over 600 during the 1930s. In 1951 following the collapse of the Blackwater Shaft which provided ventilation to the various underground workings, the London-based company Consolidated Goldfields made the sudden decision to close the mine. The effect on the town was almost instantaneous with people leaving within weeks in search of new jobs. Most of the buildings were taken away and the machinery sold, scrapped or left behind.
Waiuta is an evocative place full of memories and mystery. Stroll along the former streets and explore its enthralling history. Meet the residents of Waiuta through the rich photographic record of miner Jos Divis and share in their lives and experiences both above and below ground.
Waiuta is proudly cared for by the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai and the Friends of Waiuta.
Photo credit: R Burgess Photo credit: Claudia Babirat