What to see and do and getting there
The richest gold field in New Zealand was an almost vertical quartz reef. The mine depths were almost 900 metres (275 below sea level). Gold values ensured the mine was very profitable. On 9 July, 1951 the Blackwater shaft collapsed with flooding, pouring into the narrow shaft. The mine was rapidly abandoned as Consolidated Goldfields (NZ) Ltd decided it was uneconomic to repair the damage. The single source of income evaporated and the town’s inhabitants left.
Today Waiuta is a ghost town and emblematic of abandoned mining enterprises. Waiuta is a photographer’s delight. Joseph Divis, former miner, would agree.
WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS
- Spend time walking around the site absorbing the photographic record of the town
- Enjoy the views of the Paparoa Ranges National Park and glimpses of the Southern Alpine ranges
- Stand over New Zealand’s deepest mine shaft at 879 metres and think about the fact it was 300 metres below sea level
The interpretation of the site is due to the photographer Joseph Divis and his faithful recording of daily life
Today the site is virtually empty of buildings. Nature and recycling has cleaned up the town. The remaining buildings include the shell of the police station, an old barber shop, several cottages, the outer walls of the swimming pool and rotting rugby posts.
There are five cottages out of over 100 buildings on the site. The remaining homes withstood demolition and recycling due to the fact the occupants never left. Follow the path around the town reading the information plaques. Allow up to an hour exploring Waiuta.
The most impressive mining ruins are the mine operations. Follow Pro Road up the hill to Prohibition Mine. The foundations of the ball mill where quartz was ground to extract gold is explained with information plaques. Ponder at the sheer drop of the incline carrying pulleys down the steep valley. There are massive rusting machinery parts seemingly randomly scattered over the site. The slowly rusting parts, the wildflowers and the quiet create great photo moments.
Snowy Battery Track
- Time: 2 hr 30 min, return
- Distance: 5.1 km
From the old Waiuta town site a well formed downhill track leads you to the remains of a massive gold extraction plant, including large cyanide tanks and machinery foundations. The return journey can be either: returning by the track in, following the water race from the battery to powerhouse site then up a gentle graded track to Waiuta, or from the powerhouse crossing the river to Hukarere Road for a pre arranged pick up.
The Department of Conservation has an accommodation lodge on the Waiuta site.
Joseph Divis’s life is the story of immigration into New Zealand. Originally from Bohemia (Czech Republic) he was an experienced miner with the hobby of photography. Settling in Waiuta he is readily identified in photos due to his distinctive hat. He was a skilled photographer and understood the time required to release the shutter.
Highlights of Joseph’s life include
- Part of the Waiuta community
- Injured in the Blackwater Mine in 1939 and never worked as a miner again.
- Interned as an enemy alien in World War II
- By 1943 returned to Waiuta to the house he owned.
- Lived in Waiuta for another 24 years signing letters as the Waiuta postmaster as ‘Joseph Divis Telephonist of this Mystic Ghost Town 1957.
- Buried in Reefton cemetery.
- Officially zero
- Regardless of the season be prepared for cool breezes and rain
- Fascinating glimpse into the life of mining town
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