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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
in full.

‘‘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
is $5750.00.

‘‘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.


Lammerlaw that’s a great read, and so true. My question is, how many members of this forum have written to their local MP? And how many more than once? I suspect having read these forums (and spoken personally to over a dozen hobby miners while giving free RMA consultation work), I would say very few. I know you will have, and another mate in dunedin has been actively promoting mining to politicians but the problem is no-one is truly motivated to lead the charge…maybe it’s time for someone to stand up and take the lead ??

I’m afraid this is becoming the Kiwi way. Complaining on facebook, chopping down “Tall poppies”. The local and central government have become so out of touch.

There are even regulations on the type of bark for childrens playgrounds…:roll_eyes:

Bark is being phased out Lammerlaw. Now being replaced by some sort of bouncy rubber compound… Which in a few years time will be found to contain some sort of carcinogenic material. And all the Rubber playgrounds will be replaced with bark.

Cheers Trev

There won’t even be playgrounds. There is way too much scope for a kid to get hurt when falling off something.


Some kindy’s require a tumbled bark (removes sharp edges) It’s called “Soft fall”

I am not taking the piss here, it’s true :astonished:

what you mean kindys? I need that round where I go gold mining. also round my section, oh that’s right infect every where I walk. maybe a load on the back of the quad that spills on the ground just before I decide to chew on it

Well Keith I am off to give Mr Plod my SKS and hopefully he will also like to buy many hundreds of gun parts off me as well!

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knowing what I know you will be using a b train to get them there. you should have enough for a beer on the way home.

I love it! The Police were good and Me and Uncle Scrooge are going to go on a binge!

Took in more yesterday. I will convert my real good ones or put them on a collectors licence. I did take in my 1905 Winchester simply because I noted in the schedule that they were paying well for them. Sorry to see her go, it was a bit like losing your partner except guns don’t argue while partners do.