35 Domain Road, Bannockburn, Central Otago

Bannockburn Sluicings

Bannockburn Sluicings, Stewart Town
by Celia Walker

Although numerous gold-mining sites are scattered around Central Otago, the broad spread of the altered landscape around the Bannockburn Sluicings makes this area relatively unique. In this naturally arid region, the blasted hillsides, tunnels, and weathered tailings give the area a desert appearance, enhanced by the scrubby vegetation cover of wild thyme and prickly matagouri.

By choosing to take the DOC loop walk, you will get up close with the dry remains of the miners efforts. Apart from the landscape modified by the hydraulic sluicing process, the most visible traces of the gold-mining past can be seen in the stone-lined water races, reservoir and dams all dating back to the 50-year period the area was worked, beginning in the 1860s. Other structures, particularly the blacksmith’s shop, are less visible as the stones forming the walls settle back into the landscape.

At the midway point of the loop track, the walk encounters the remains of Stewart Town and Menzies Dam, these are named after two of the more prominent inhabitants, David Stewart and John Menzies, who built the Menzies Dam in 1873. Restoration work has ensured the stability of the most substantial cottage in Stewart Town, the other eight houses are reduced to low walls and rubble.

Still relatively thriving however, are the fruit trees around the settlement, which help give more of a sense of the living past.

Walkers need to respect that part of the loop is on private farmland, and that archaeological items are protected. Also vital to remember is that these hills are very dry, so bring your own drinking water.

The town of Bannockburnhas turned to tourism and viticulture, and is regenerating. Nearby at Bendigo, you may visit the leftovers of three entirely different, and more successful forms of mining, where gold was ground out of Quartz reef, sifted from the river, and later dredged.


Dust To GoldGold!: Otago, 1862 (My New Zealand Story)

Image Credits: Celia Walker


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