Let's get some reality over mining on Great Barrier Island

Anyone would think that Great Barrier Island is a pristine natural island untouched by anything quit as horrible as mining.

Well one should check your history. As Phil Goff heads of to Great Barrier Island, no doubt with My Little Pony and Koru Club in train I wonder perhaps if he will stop off and have a look at the old stamping battery on Great Barrier, or visit Miners Cove, where a Copper mine was, or perhaps stand at Miners Head and wonder why it is called that.

Copper was discovered at Miners Head in 1841 and New Zealand’s earliest mine workings were established there in 1842. The main chamber of the coppermine is 75m long, 25m wide and 50m high. The mine and related features can be visited by boat, though access to the main chamber is restricted for safety reasons.

DOC thinks those sites are important enough to warrant a whole page on its site. The remains of the Kauri Dam would also be worth a look surely?

Gold and silver were discovered in the 1890s and numerous shafts and adits are located in the Okupu/Whangaparapara area and elsewhere. Remains of the 1899 Oreville stamping (ore crushing) battery at Whangaparapara, with its massive stone walls above and below the road, are an impressive reminder of the gold and silver mining era.

Other extractive industries also existed at one time or another on Great Barrier Island. It really is amazing what you find on DOC websites.

The timber industry also brought great changes to the island. The native forests were largely intact until the 1840s and the arrival of the Europeans, but were logged with increasing intensity from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. A few areas of original kauri forest survived, and a large part of the remainder has since regenerated and is protected in public ownership by the Department of Conservation. The NZ Forest Service planted approximately 150,000 kauri seedlings between 1976-1987.

They built Kauri Dams to extract the timber.

One of the island’s best known historic landmarks is the Kaiarara main dam on the Kaiarara Stream below Hirakimata (Mt Hobson). Built in 1926 by George Murray of the Kauri Timber Company, its dimensions are impressive (40m wide by 14m high, one of the largest of c.3000 timber dams built in New Zealand). Kauri driving dams were built by loggers to drive large quantities of kauri downstream.

Built without the aid of drawings or engineering calculations, they provided a barrier against many tonnes of water and considerable quantities of kauri logs and were able to withstand the combined force of these when the dam was tripped and the logs were driven downstream through the gate.

The Kaiarara dam is a type known as a ‘rafter flume dam’. Rather than having a solid gate it was built with loose gate planks which hung vertically – a concept thought to be unique to New Zealand. The dam can be reached by a walking track, as can one of two smaller dams above it.

Whangaparara timber mill. Photo: DOC.

Another reminder of the logging days is the ruins of the early 20th century Kauri Timber Company milling operation at Whangaparapara (left). The remains include a steam tractor, cast iron chimney stack, concrete pads and stone walls. This was once a very large sawmill which processed logs rafted by sea from the Coromandel and Northland as well as from the island. Some of the walking track routes in this area follow the early tramlines used by the logging industry.  The tramline track is the most impressive.  In its day (1925-4) it was one of the most extensive incline systems in the world.

Oh and wonderful news once the resumption of commercial harvesting of whales begins again.

The remains of the last whaling station to be established in New Zealand can also be seen at Whangaparapara. Whaling began in New Zealand waters in the 1790s. The peak year for whaling was 1839, with 150 American whaling ships and 50 from other nations recorded in and around New Zealand waters. Depletion of whaling stocks and a more enlightened approach towards marine mammals has led to the banning of whaling in New Zealand’s waters. The Whangaparapara station, built as recently as 1955, had closed by 1962.

So what we know from DOC’s own website is all that beautiful pristine untouched bush on Great Barrier island is in fact regrowth after the whole island was stripped bare. Well if it cold grow once it can grow again. It isn’t untouched, the whole place virtually, from the sea to the land has been mined before.

I wonder too whether Phil Goff and his hangers on will have a chat to Winnie a lovely lady who lives on the Barrier who has many interesting things to say, particularly about mining.

Leighton Smith – Mining on Great Barrier Island.

Can we please have some honesty from our politicians and a simple bit of Google searching from repeaters to establish facts. You too Farrar, just pretend Great Barrier Island is your mother’s grave.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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