Understanding the rules for beginners

I recently have moved to the West Coast, and newly armed with my gold pan I planned to set off into the hills for some prospecting for fun.

Except I don’t think that that’s allowed…

Am I correct in understanding that I need to buy the appropriate permit (I assume one would start with a prospecting permit), which appears to $3450.00. Despite not knowing what’s there (I am new to the region)…

Unless I stick to the public gold fossicking areas.

Is that right? If I just wander into the hills for fun (checking for existing claims and avoiding those of course) with my pan I am actually breaking the law?

Is that what happens in reality?

(if there is any ‘guide for beginners’ you can just point me there; I didn’t find any such thing)


I think you have to apply for an exploration permit first if you want to search a large area for gold, then you apply for a mining permit when you’ve found the spot you want to work for the next 10 years. Nope, NZ isn’t geared up for the hobby gold prospector at all, apart from the public fossicking spots, which can be pretty good.

However, when I’ve been stomping around in the bush I often come across sluice boxes and other tools hidden away. Hopefully these “illegal” miners are being conscientious and checking the permit maps to make sure they’re not playing on someones expensive claim first.

NZPAM’s mining permit map
Paydirt gold mining permit map

You make a good point, a beginners guide could be a useful resource. When I get some spare time I should throw one together for the site.

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OK thanks for that. I’m glad I didn’t just wander off into the hills, I might have found myself in trouble…

I’ll be off to the nearest public fossicking area as soon as this lockdown lifts!

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Technically, panning in an unclaimed area outside of the public fossicking areas is breaking the law. In reality, many (perhaps even most) people pan outside the fossicking areas. I think it’s fair to say that NZ’s prospecting laws are out-of-sync with generally accepted practice.

If you decide to go outside the fossicking areas, check first with the NZPAM minerals permit webmap whether the area is claimed.
If it’s claimed, you’ll need to get permission from the claim holder.
If it’s not claimed, but on public land, no problem.
If it’s not claimed, and on private land, get permission from the land owner.
Good luck!


Thanks! I wondered if that was the case.

I guess it would pay to be discreet if heading into (unclaimed) DOC land - there would be little to no enforcement of individual small scale prospectors?

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I find that it’s definitely worth trying to track down the claim owner of an area of interest.
I just ring or email asking “politely” and you usually find its not a problem.
Sometimes they are more than happy and even give you tips where to go and even show you where the best access is etc…just my view.


If you are looking for a personal guide and in the Collingwood area check out Steve Bulmer of Gold Hunting Adventures. Steve’s a great guy and full of knowledge. You won’t come away empty handed but it will cost you for his time and petrol etc. You can google Gold Hunting adventures too find out more. He also advertises on Trade Me.

That looks like a great resource, thanks!