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New Zealand offers unique conservation areas where visitors can try their luck at gold hunting. Known as “fossicking,” panning for gold is legal. However, that’s provided visitors do it in the permit-free areas set aside as recreational areas. With 16 designated areas dotted around between the North and South Island, there’s plenty of choices. So next time you visit New Zealand, why not satisfy that inner lust for gold?
New Zealand allows fossicking for gold with a pan and shovel
Most of the places reserved for pubic gold-hunting lie inside wilderness areas. Now protected, basic campsites offer overnight accommodation. For the most part, the facilities seem very scarce. Put aside notions of “theme park” gold hunting. Many people become used to the sort of places where”salted” gold can be panned and basically visitors pay for the pleasure. These freezing cold rivers and creeks in New Zealand mostly once experienced the glorious surge of gold fever in the past. Not commercially viable, gold remains in those rivers. And anyone can do it.
Lucky travelers and even locals sometimes snag decent-sized nuggets, especially after the rains and floods. But more often, traces of gold dust glint tantalizingly at the bottom of the pan. Basic equipment like waterproof wellington boots, pans, portable mini-sluices, shovels, and gloves are available in any outdoor shop in nearby towns. Often, the pans come in heavy-duty plastic which makes for easy transportation. Nature-loving explorers often enjoy the thrill of panning for gold in pristine forests and creeks that abound with birds.
Living history of gold mining
Most of the recreational areas come with information boards and some historical relics from around 130 years ago. Old mining villages often lie in areas now lawned for campers. Using ox-carts for transportation of heavy equipment in freezing cold conditions through the almost impenetrable forest took strength, determination and sheer guts. The same creeks you now stand in as you fossick for gold brings a sharp reminder that real people came before you. Here and there old stacks of hand-piled alluvial stones bear testimony to backbreaking labor as people chased their dream of wealth.
New Zealand gold-hunting in recreational areas isn’t about too much comfort either. Most campsites are basic, with stands, ablutions, and a place to picnic or barbecue in safe fire-weather. Wading in those creeks requires the right clothing. Freezing cold, even in summer, you’ll need thick woolen socks. Without gloves, your hands feel like blocks of ice in minutes, so gloves come in handy, as well. Longsleeved shirts and trousers help also help. Unfortunately, sandflies also love the creeks and shady forests. The midge-sized flies bite in marauding clouds and leave big itchy welts. So, pack lots and lots of insect repellant. But if it’s living history in the wilderness that draws you outdoors, you’ll enjoy your time gold-hunting.
Rules and regulations
People who fossick for gold in designated permit-free areas may use a hand shovel. Note that you can’t start digging trenches. Only existing waterways may be panned. And, while you may use a portable sluice you may not divert the river to use them. The conservation-minded country also prefers you to take all your garbage out with you. In other words, they want small footprints. If you’re into eco-tourism, you already know how to respect that. Mine For Gold reminds casual fossickers, “These areas…covered by the Crown Minerals Act 1991..are restricted to hand held, non-motorized, fossicking methods only.”
The full maps and details of the 16 designated gold fossicking areas in New Zealand may be found on this link at Paydirt. In short, they encompass recreational areas along the Aorere River area A outside of Collingwood. Collingwood’s located close to Takaka, a charming town in a secret valley. Then, there’s the Aorere River area B, set further downstream. Other locations may be found near Murchison, Rotoroa, Greymouth, and NelsonCreek. Yet more areas include those found in Central and South Otago. Plus, there are more near Hokitika, Westport, and Reefton.
Can you sell the gold you find in New Zealand recreational areas?
As people know, the price of gold makes it a great investment. And, locals become more aware that areas requiring mining permits offer great opportunities to accumulate some. However, unlicensed miners increasingly abuse the system. So, authorities tighten up on the sale of gold. But for casual panners and fossickers, most jewelry stores in the country will consider buying from you. But note that unless you pay for assaying and cleaning you’ll likely only get a low-end offer.
Don’t forget to declare honestly where you sourced the gold, and carry identification with you. Of course, you may not recover a reasonable amount that’s worth selling. But then, you can’t put a price on the memories of spotting that first line of gold glittering at the bottom of your pan. You’ll not forget the thrill of a yarn over an early cup of coffee as the mist wreathes off the hills and valleys ahead of your next gold-hunting day.
So the next time you plan a trip to New Zealand, put those recreational gold hunting areas on your bucket list!
Remember to check back with The Destination Seeker often for more fun places across the world that you can explore.