I didnt write this but knicked it from where it was written - how about that!
This is New Zealand for you and these are your rights…
Gold fossicking dream choked by red tape
An old miner was holding forth in the pub. ‘‘There’s still gold to be found. You should do a bit of fossicking.’’
A hundred yards from my back door, the Sowburn gurgles its way towards the Taieri River. In the 1860s the place was as warm with miners and even though some of them did pretty well they must have left some gold behind.
Henry Loader was one who gave me hope. Henry came to Otago in 1862, ending up at the Sowburn diggings. In 1874 he hit the jackpot and had 80 ounces of gold to send to the mint in Melbourne. Once the mint had taken its cut and the duty had been paid, Henry ended up with about £312. Today, that’s worth about $40,000.
It came at just the right time for Henry, who had been courting Annie Hawker, probably a daughter of Charles Hawker who had been running a weekly coach service from Dunedin to Naseby. While I have no urgent need to raise funds to get married, Henry’s story was an inspiration.
The pension, despite the recent increase which just about matches the rising cost of dog food, needs topping up if a lifestyle which includes the odd bottle of wine is to be maintained.
The old miner gave me a few tips and the loan of his gold pan and I was ready to fossick. I’ll need only about 20 ounces to match Henry’s $40,000. Probably get those in the first day on the river.
But then, my old problem made me hesitate. I call it honesty, others say it’s just a fear of prison life. For whatever reason, I’ve always been a pretty law-abiding sort of bloke so I decided to check out the laws of fossicking. My contact was a man who has entered his occupation description for this year’s Longest Public Service Job Title Award (the much coveted LPSJTA, for which a very large plaque, suitably engraved, is presented at the Beehive each year).
He is Permit Officer, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, Energy and Resource Markets Branch, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He kindly summarised the legal position under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. The Act runs to many pages and includes stuff like ‘‘ the removal of
overburden by mechanical or other means, and the stacking, deposit, storage, and treatment of any substance considered to contain any mineral’ ’ and the Act is understood by only one person in the country —the Permit Officer, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, Energy and Resource
Markets Branch, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment— so I was lucky to strike him first off.
I was told that fossicking is allowed only in designated areas, of which four are in Otago, all near Queenstown which is a long way from the Sowburn. I was appalled. ‘‘Surely, I should be able to stroll over to the Sowburn and poke around with a tin dish and dessert spoon?’’ The reply is worth quoting
‘‘The short answer is no. You can only fossick for gold in the designated public gold fossicking areas, no permits are issued to individuals for the purpose of gold fossicking.
Other than gold fossicking in designated areas, you can apply for a gold mining permit. If you are granted a gold mining permit by the minister, you will then have to obtain access to work the area from the landowner(s) concerned
The local authorities for that area will also require consents to be obtained or other requirements to be met. You will need to make inquiries with the local authority concerned about those matters. The cost for making an application to New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals for a Tier 2 Mining Permit
‘‘The annual permit fees for a Tier 2 Mining permit are $20.58 per hectare or part thereof or $1150.00, which is greater. All fees quoted are GST inclusive.’’
I reported this to the locals, who suggested I have ago anyway, assuring me the authorities would hardly send a chopper to sweep the Sowburn to catch an old bloke picking away among the stones with his dessert spoon. Then I saw the paragraph about penalties.
‘‘ Every person who commits an offence is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding $400,000, and, if the offence is a continuing one, to a further fine not exceeding $20,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence continues.’’
I gave up my fossicking before it even started.
Today’s rules would mean that poor old Henry Loader would never have been able to afford to get married and for me they mean cheaper dog roll.
Time for anew, and very different, Mining Act.
Jim Sullivan is a Patearoa writer.
This article is from the Tuesday 9th July, 2019 issue of The Otago Daily Times Digital Edition.