The story of Ross Goldfields...
Ross was settled in
1865, a gold mining town nestled in a sweeping curve of rainforest-clad
hills between the Totara and Mikonui rivers. At this time the west coast
of New Zealand's South Island was largely unexplored; a wilderness of
swamp and rainforest, home to few Maori and no European settlers.
Ross proved to be gold-rich and the town thrived with about 2500 inhabitants, numerous hotels and even a harpist! A vast amount of gold was extracted from the area, but the major Ross gold rush ended in the early 1870s, with most large mining operations turning their attention to new areas.
Mining continued in Ross with some success, but the population gradually decreased. Quartz was mined sporadically on Mt Greenland, a lofty ridge towering 3000ft above the township, but gold proved to be elusive and efforts meet with little real success. In 1909 two miners reworking the bank of Jones Creek, unearthed a fist-sized nugget weighing about 3.1kg. This was a celebrated find, and the nugget was christened 'the Honourable Roddy Nugget', after the Minister of Mines Roderick McKenzie.
Ross weathered the ups and downs of the post gold rush years, with new industries beginning to pay. One of the largest indigenous timber mills in the South Island was established in Ross, and the town became more accessible, with an inland road and railway line from Hokitika. Farming became more viable and a lime works was founded in the 1900s in the hills opposite the township.
Today remnants of the gold rush can be seen everywhere: in original buildings and in the landscape itself, altered by excavations and vast mounds of tailings. Mining relics, tunnels and the remainder of miles of water race can be found in the regenerating rainforest, and descendants of those early diggers still make the town their home.
Information drawn from 'Gold Town' by Phillip Ross May.
Ross Goldfields Information and Heritage Centre: open 7 days Alymer St, Ross
Westland, on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is a wild paradise with rainforests, lakes, mountains and beaches. Ross is a friendly little town and the heart of Westland's goldfields heritage.
Travel times and distances:
- Christchurch to Ross = 281km: 3.5 - 4 hours
- Greymouth to Ross = 67km: 1 hour
- Haast to Ross = 255km: 3 - 3.5 hours