Gold in New Zealand

Considerable Amounts of Gold

Lest anyone ever doubt it, New Zealand is a land of great contrasts and even greater beauty. An added fact is that this diverse island nation has also produced considerable amounts of gold in both placer and lode form.

The first references to the possible existence of gold in New Zealand come in the form of diaries and other written accounts from early explorers and settlers, although I suspect that New Zealand's native people, the Maori, knew of the yellow metal long before the first Europeans arrived. As far as I can determine however, the Maori had little use for gold (much like their native counterparts here in North America and elsewhere).

First Gold Discoveries

Interestingly enough, most of the significant early gold discoveries in New Zealand were made by seasoned prospectors and miners who had earned their badges as veterans in the goldfields of California's Motherlode or the big strikes on the island continent of Australia.

Significant amounts of primary (alluvial or placer) gold were first discovered by Charles Ring in 1852 at Coromandel in what would later be known as the Hauraki Goldfield. Ring had been prospecting along Driving Creek on North Island when he hit the "big one."

Within the next 10-12 years other extensive placer gold discoveries followed at locations like Collingwood on South Island, in Otago at Gabriel's Gully, and at numerous spots along the western coastline of South Island. These initial finds led to the eventual tracking and discovery in the 1860s and 1870s of numerous lode gold or "reef" (vein) gold deposits at Hauraki, Thames, Coromandel, Waihi, Otago, and the aptly named Reefton. (Note: Most of these reefs were free-milling gold in quartz veins. J.R. )

Where to Test Your Skills

If you live in New Zealand or are planning to visit and you want to test your gold prospecting and mining skills, here are some suggestions for you:

There are numerous sites and localized gold-bearing areas on both North Island and South Island. New Zealanders are, by and large, open and friendly people so try asking the locals where you might wet your gold pan.

Just about any creek or drainage along the west coast of South Island will produce good color in your pan if you follow the principles of good sampling and exercise your knowledge of stream hydraulics and gold deposition patterns.

One of the most significant gold-producing areas in New Zealand can be found between Queenstown and Dunedin.

The Shotover River (also in the Queenstown-to-Dunedin area) was once called the "richest river in the world" because of the amount of placer gold recovered from it. Even though the Shotover has been worked over fairly hard, good placer gold values can be found there by small-scale or recreational miners who know their stuff.

Just about any creek or small stream in the Queenstown-to-Dunedin area will produce color as well. Your best bet here is, once again, to talk to the locals. They'll point you in the right direction.

If you do decide to try your hand at gold mining or panning in New Zealand, be advised that you must first purchase a type of permit or license known locally as a "Prospector's Right." The "Prospector's Right" costs around $10 (New Zealand dollars) and is valid for for a full year. You can purchase one from a Mines Division office or from one of the larger post offices around.

Good luck out there and enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty while you're at it!

(Note: If any of my New Zealand mining friends would like to provide more detailed information on gold and gold mining in New Zealand please feel free to e-mail me. Thanks. J.R.)

(c) J.R. 2009

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Before people go gold mining or panning in New Zealand, they usually need a mining permit from Crown Minerals, Ministry of Economic Development.

    However, to make gold panning a more accessible experience, sixteen areas have been set aside in the South Island where anyone can freely enjoy recreational gold mining without the need for a mining permit. These areas are called gold fossicking areas and have been designated under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. Fossicking generally means searching for and collecting materials from surface of land or by digging by hand.

    More information:

  2. Thank you very much for commenting and for the pertinent information. This will surely help those who are interested in "fossicking" in New Zealand. J.R.

  3. I think things have changed a little since this post as the "prospectors license" does not exist anymore! You still have to apply through crown minerals but the permits are excess of $1000-2000+ now! big jump from the old $10 ! They have however allowed free fossicking in the 16 areas found in the link below showing the maps on there site! Its a bloody disgrace that only commercial ventures can prospect but the weekend panner is minimilised to the south island as no areas of the north island have been allocated, hence its "illegal" to pan in the North island! Until they take into account the people of this land and not sell themselves out too cheaply to overseas countries i suggest you exercise your democratic right to pan freely until they bring in an affordable permit for the weekend fossicker! Until then don't get caught!, but please ask land owners of panning/detecting on there land and if metal detecting PLEASE fill in your holes so as no one breaks there ankles!

  4. Thank you for providing this important update. Even New Zealand appears to have fallen prey to the same private property and bureaucratic BS issues we face here in the Western and Southwestern United States. Jim Rocha (J.R.)

  5. Here's a map of all the public gold fossicking areas in New Zealand:

    And also interesting is a topo map with the current active mining permits overlayed to give you an idea where gold concentrations are:

    You'll notice a lot of beach claims - these are for the gold rich black sands that wash up. The gold recovered from these is very fine flour like gold.

  6. Gavin, thank you very much for this information. Having the fossicking map is a great asset to all, as is the topo. I appreciate your time and generosity in supplying these. Thanks again! Jim (J.R.)

  7. Hello all,

    I am about to emigrate to New Zealands North Island and plan to do some recreational detection and panning there in the weekends.
    On the map provided by Gavin i see claims on the coastal area near Whangarei.
    Is it worth to go there with a detector?

  8. Can any of you New Zealanders out there answer this query from Joop (since I have not been to New Zealand myself)? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Jim


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