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Upper South Island loop road trip, Kaikoura, Marlborough returning to Nelson


Blackwater Mine chimney and winding engine foundations at Waiuta Blackwater Mine chimney and winding engine foundations at Waiuta

Waiuta area: Places to go on the West Coast is today’s highlight. There are visible reminders of the industry and the lives of over 7,000 miners and their families. It is evocative with the bush reclaiming areas, the industrial archeological sites are in good condition and the sheer remoteness of the area. It is a considerable distance from Reefton or any other settlement. The road is gravel, narrow and seems to be disappearing into the bush. Before you arrive at the Waiuta heritage area you will pass Blackwater School. It is worth a stop to view an intact 1950’s schoolhouse, now in dire need of a new roof. Donations are kindly received, pop into the charity box attached to the school classroom wall.

Read more What’s so great about Blackwater School.

Blackwater School front path

Blackwater school

The school was built in 1913 to serve the small mining, sawmilling and farming Blackwater area in the upper Grey Valley. Blackwater flourished with a sawmill to serve the mine, as well as a post office, a police station, a store, a butcher shop and a hotel. When the mines closed in Waiuta, the population of Waiuta and Blackwater dwindled. The school closed in 1949. It sits on private land but is owned by the community. Visitors are encouraged to respect the heritage site and make a gold coin donation in the visitor box.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Friends of Waiuta  have been working to restore the town’s history and want to develop it as a tourist attraction. Many of the houses were relocated when the town was abandoned in 1951 and gorse has taken over much of the land. Several buildings remain though, including Gills Cottage, the barber shop, the police station and a house belonging to miner and photographer Joseph Divis​. The hospital had been rebuilt into a lodge, while the barber shop was recently re-clad and made weather-tight. The shell of the Olympic-size swimming pool built by local miners is still there.

Read more What’s so great about Waiuta.

Waiutu abandoned mine
Waiutu goldminng hotel remains

Getting to Waiuta

Waiuta is halfway between Reefton and Greymouth. It is signposted from SH7, 21 km south of Reefton. Turn onto Waiuta Rd, then right onto Blackwater Rd, which becomes Pearce Rd.

NOTE: Gold mining is still on the agenda in Waiuta…Tasman Mining and OceanaGold signed an agreement in July 2019 to develop the high-grade Blackwater gold deposit at Waiuta. A 20-year mining permit was issued this month by state agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, which enables development of 3.3 kilometres of exploration tunnels to find out how much gold is available before mining begins. OceanaGold, which owns both the Macraes and Waihi gold mines, has provided the seed financing for the project. Tasman Mining is leading the project’s development and has the exclusive right to purchase Blackwater from OceanaGold if the mine goes ahead.

VISIT DURATION: 3 – 4 hours.

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