One of New Zealand’s best ghost towns.
From Reefton head along SH7 for 21 km towards Greymouth from where Waiuta is clearly signposted on the left. The road is not suited to campervans.
Blackwater Road is sealed for the first 9 km to Blackwater, then narrows and becomes unsealed for the final 8 km to Waiuta. Park at Top Road by the information area (old post office).
There are interpretation panels and maps at the old post office. From this elevated position above the town you can get a good idea of the layout and geography. Explore your own way.
A short loop may take in the old swimming pool, Blackwater shaft and Barbers Shop. Most of the rest of the town is covered in manuka scrub, but enlivened with old photos and information panels. The best preserved are the Blackwater Shaft main buildings.
For a longer loop (add an extra 1 hour 30 minutes) take the detour to Snowy Battery then follow the Snowy River to the Powerhouse Site.
In 1905 a quartz reef discovered by James Martin, Donald Ross, William Meates and Ernest Bannan saw the meteoric rise of Waiuta, centred around the shaft of the Blackwater Mine. As the find took place on the birthday of Edward VII, the naming honoured the monarch. David Ziman formed the Consolidated Goldfields Company of New Zealand, which swallowed up many other quartz mines in the Inangahua area, such as the Ajax, Royal Mint, Venus and Sir Francis Drake.
Five years later 300 people lived on the uplant plateau, which quickly resembled a proper town with streets, stores and social clubs. ‘The Red Huts’ housed the single men, while families nestled below on the flats. A school, churches and the obligatory ‘hotel’ gave the population ample distraction from the hard graft of underground mining. The Miner’s Hall became notorious for the well-attended annual Bachelors Ball. The town produced many sporting champions, including pugilist flyweight Spider ‘Whitebait’ Purdon. The Waiuta Rugby team were crowned West Coast champions many times.
The Prohibition Mine was amalgamated with the Blackwater Mine and Waiuta seemingly rode out the depression on the flow of gold from the quartz veins. The mine plummeted to depths of 840 metres in 17 levels - New Zealand’s deepest.
However, with labour shortages during the war, technical problems with ventilation deep down and finally flooding of the lower levels, the mine closed in 1951. A hive of activity for over 40 years was abandoned, leaving only some decaying infrastructure, but lively stories of wholesome lives in a hidden West Coast valley.
Even in 1980 phones would ring in abandoned shacks and the two remaining residents would beckon any hapless visitor in for a sherry and a yarn. Dick Willun was the self-declared postmaster and mayor until he too left or died.
South Island ▷ West Coast ▷ Reefton
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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 😍