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Double Happiness - again

  • 30 Aug 2008

We never did get around to reporting the March 29 opening of Te Araroa's Long Hilly track which we described in a March 28 post as imminent - so here it is.

Frana Cardno, Mayor of Southland District, and Warrick McCallum for Te Araroa Southland Trust cut a golden ribbon to open the track.

Frana and Warrick
Photo credit: Jessie Blakie

Gold was apt. Gold underlies the Long Hilly history, and Dr James Ng, Chinese historian, gave a summary of Southland's forgotten Chinese gold-field, and forgotten township - "Canton."

A goldfield typically had three stages, Dr Ng told a crowd of around 70. First came the small miners, then the big sluicing companies, and the final phase was sluicing and dredging to clean up the field. The Round Hill field was unusual in that the Chinese dominated the "small miner" or first phase of the goldfield, and built a township of 500 Chinese miners.

Round Hill

High pressure water was essential for sluicing, but unavailable locally. Ports race, was financed by a European partnership of Joe Park and Charles Port to bring water from 20 kilometres away, but was built by Chinese labour to guarantee the Chinese miners water, and was completed in 1889. Within three years though, the Round Hill Mining Company bought the race and by slow degrees ushered the Round Hill field into its second phase - the takeover by big investor-driven companies. The Chinese population diminished, though Canton remained a lively settlement dominated up to his death in1894 by Ly Chong, who organised the earliest of the water races at Round Hill, and who built also the two-storey hotel at the right in the 1903 photo above.

Aside from the 90-minute Te Araroa loop walk to the old earth dams, Te Araroa itself then tracks 14 kilometres north to Cascade Road, along the old maintenance track beside Ports Race. The race is now root-ridden and dry, but its engineering solutions remain on show and impressive. To maintain a calm steady flow, the Chinese workers tunnelled right through small spurs in their path, or carried the race on what are now largely ruined trestles over creek beds.

Funding for the Long Hilly Track came from the Lotteries Commission ($15,000), the Stout Trust ($17,000) the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs ($15,000) the Community Trust of Southland ($70,000, but with some of this money budgeted for other Te Araroa links), the Southland District Council ($30,000) the Southland Conservancy of the Department of Conservation ($5,300 plus a good deal of in-kind advice and equipment) and Environment Southland ($500).

Te Araroa Southland Trust were project managers, working alongside DoC, whose volunteer teams also cleared much of the Ports Race track. A Christchurch City Care youth team did much of the early Long Hilly track work, and the final loop was completed by SouthRoads.

Crowd for the opening
Photo credit: Jessie Blakie

The opening drew a big crowd and was MCed by Lloyd Blakie, chair of Te Araroa Southland Trust.

Later the group responsible for much of the work, and including speakers at the opening, posed for a group shot.

Group at track opening
Photo credit: Jessie Blakie]

Back row, left to right with Te Araroa Southland Trust designated by initials - Warrick McCallum (TAST), John Fraser (TAST), Robin McNeill (TAST) Frana Cardno (Mayor Southland District), Barry Hanson (Southland Conservator, DoC) Lesley Soper (Labour MP Invercargill), Dr James Ng, Lloyd Blakie (TAST chair). Front row: Stuart Tecofsky (TAST), Kevin Hawkes (TAST), and Geoff Chapple (Te Araroa Trust). Present on the day and important to this project, but not around when the shutter clicked were Brian Keown (City Care), Philippa Humm (DoC), and Brian Murphy (DoC).">

The track, signposted off highway 99 west of Colac Bay, has a 30-vehicle-sized carpark and has proved a popular walk. As laid down in the management agreement with Te Araroa Southland Trust, DoC is now installing a track counter to check just how many visitors are using it.

Joss house at Round Hill
The Joss house at Round Hill
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