The Broken Hills Battery on the east side of the Tairua River was water-driven. Water was taken from the Third Branch Stream and transported across the Tairua River via a 3.3 km water race that now forms part of the track.
From the start of the Golden Hills Track, continue along the main path. Alternatively, if you have exited the Collins Drive Tunnel from the east entrance, the path is on the left at the junction with the Third Branch Track.
Follow the water race through the cuttings in the excavated hillside. Expect to get wet feet, as the water doesn’t race anymore. Turn right and climb the wooden steps through a series of short tunnels. After the final tunnel, the track loops around and climbs to the junction with the Third Branch Track.
Puketui Road heads inland from SH25, following the old road used to access the goldmines in the Broken Hills area. Above the green pastures of the valley floor, the regenerating vegetation draws a dark green hue over the precipitous hillsides. This is a hidden and enchanted valley, which glimpses the work of Coromandel’s fiery volcanic legacy. Bulbous hilltops contrast with the serrated Pinnacles, towering nearly 800 metres above you and piercing the skyline. Skeletons of kauri trunks stand ghost-like on the ridges and the low vegetation hides the ravages of previous logging.
Arriving at the DoC campground beside the idyllic Tairua River there is no hint that the chuckling waters were once drowned by the clang and clatter of heavy stampers crushing ore. Nor is there any immediate evidence of the battery buildings, tramways and mine workings. Further exploration along the extensive track network, however, tells a different story and hints at the naming of Broken Hills.
Perusing the details of goldmining at Broken Hills reads like a catalogue of frustration. Despite massive investment at the Broken Hills claim and the Golden Hills claim, little reward was ever accrued.
Claims were first pegged in 1895, two years after the discovery of gold in the vicinity. A sample of one ton of quartz was sent to the Thames School of Mines and yielded 57 ounces of bullion valued at £69. A London syndicate put up the capital to work the Broken Hills claim in 1896 and outlaid significant quantities of money to open up the mine, lay tramways and purchase a battery from England. But due to poor initial returns, it suspended operations before the battery had been constructed.
In 1899, the claim and plant were sold at auction to H.H. Adams, who bid on behalf of the Tairua Broken Hills Goldmining Company. They continued the efforts to establish the infrastructure and extended the low-level adit. Development work was also carried out on Blucher, Western Number 1 and Night Reefs. Their dwindling efforts were saved in 1901 when high grade ore was discovered, which kept operations profitable until 1909. The introduction of the cyanide process substantially increased returns, so by 1909 3,379 tons of ore had been processed for a return of around 51,012 ounces of bullion, valued at £89,036.
The Broken Hills Battery held 20 stamps, facilities for mercury amalgamation and a cyanide plant. The original work engine was powered by steam, but replaced after 1901 by a Pelton wheel. This was driven by a 3.3 km long water race sourced from a dam higher up the watershed.
The Golden Hills workings commenced around 1907, following the positive returns from the Broken Hills mine. The Tairua Golden Hills Goldmining Company formed and sought a profitable reef situated on an elevated hillside above the western flank of the Tairua River. Three horizontal tunnels (adits) were driven through the hillside, including the 500-metre-long Collins Drive tunnel. Eventually after crushing 4,670 tons of ore, around 3,671 ounces of bullion were recovered, valued at £6,495.
North Island ▷ Coromandel ▷ Tairua
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍