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Gold Miners

In 1862, Maori shepherd Jack Tewa was working for Rees. Tewa found alluvial gold in the Arrow River and shortly afterward, his fellow workers William Fox and John O’Callaghan found significant deposits.

A shanty town of canvas and caravans was quickly erected on Ree’s doorstep as miners flooded in from the Australian and Californian goldfields. Many others, with little or no experience, arrived from around the world hoping to strike lucky in Queenstown and Arrowtown.

More than a thousand prospectors tried their luck in Arrowtown (then called Fox’s, after the very assertive William Fox). Up to 500 more worked the river in its upper reaches between Eight Mile and Twelve Mile Creeks. Makeshift settlements, bars and general stores sprang up through the region, establishing Queenstown and Arrowtown.

The Shotover River was the second richest gold bearing river in the world, but the initial rush was short lived. In 1864, gold was discovered on the West Coast of the South Island and many miners joined followed the rush.

Income tax on the gold had been a big source of income for the Otago province, so the government needed to come up with a solution to patch up the loss of income created by the fickle gold miners.

The government invited Chinese miners to work on the Otago goldfields. More than 5000 Chinese were living and working in the area by the 1870s. Many worked hard to find the dregs of gold left after the initial rush, others worked as builders, in market gardens and whatever other work that could be found.

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