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I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.
I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!
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The 500 metre long Collins Drive Tunnel was cross-cut right through the hillside with very little reward in payable gold. Inside it can be wet and muddy. Side shafts are unsafe to explore and have been boarded up, but the main tunnel is long enough to make you think an axe murderer is behind you.
Access to Broken Hills is via Morrisons Road, which starts from opposite the Pauanui turnoff at the Hikuai service station (19 km south of Tairua and 27 km north of Whangamata). After 1 km, just before crossing the Tairua River, turn left onto Puketui Road. Broken Hills is 6 km along the unsealed road.
The track starts on the right, over the footbridge on Gold Creek from the Roadend Carpark.
This links up with the 3rd Branch Track or Water Race Track to form a circuit.
Five minutes from the start of the track on the left, there is a big rock (approximately 10 metres high). Shortly after, follow the path forks to the right. This climbs steadily and takes you to the West Entrance of the Collins Drive Tunnel.
A 15-minute detour to a lookout (322 metres) is worthwhile particularly for the detailed views of the Pinnacles to the north-west and the luxuriant Coromandel bush.
Take care in the Collins Drive Tunnel. You will need a torch, as the glowworms don’t provide enough light. You should also take warm clothing.
After exiting the East entrance of the Collins Drive Tunnel, there are options to return via the 3rd Branch Track or the Water Race Track.
Puketui Road heads inland from SH25, following the old road used to access the goldmines in the Broken Hills area. Above the green pastures of the valley floor, the regenerating vegetation draws a dark green hue over the precipitous hillsides. This is a hidden and enchanted valley, which glimpses the work of Coromandel’s fiery volcanic legacy. Bulbous hilltops contrast with the serrated Pinnacles, towering nearly 800 metres above you and piercing the skyline. Skeletons of kauri trunks stand ghost-like on the ridges and the low vegetation hides the ravages of previous logging.
Arriving at the DoC campground beside the idyllic Tairua River there is no hint that the chuckling waters were once drowned by the clang and clatter of heavy stampers crushing ore. Nor is there any immediate evidence of the battery buildings, tramways and mine workings. Further exploration along the extensive track network, however, tells a different story and hints at the naming of Broken Hills.
Perusing the details of goldmining at Broken Hills reads like a catalogue of frustration. Despite massive investment at the Broken Hills claim and the Golden Hills claim, little reward was ever accrued.
Claims were first pegged in 1895, two years after the discovery of gold in the vicinity. A sample of one ton of quartz was sent to the Thames School of Mines and yielded 57 ounces of bullion valued at £69. A London syndicate put up the capital to work the Broken Hills claim in 1896 and outlaid significant quantities of money to open up the mine, lay tramways and purchase a battery from England. But due to poor initial returns, it suspended operations before the battery had been constructed.
In 1899, the claim and plant were sold at auction to H.H. Adams, who bid on behalf of the Tairua Broken Hills Goldmining Company. They continued the efforts to establish the infrastructure and extended the low-level adit. Development work was also carried out on Blucher, Western Number 1 and Night Reefs. Their dwindling efforts were saved in 1901 when high grade ore was discovered, which kept operations profitable until 1909. The introduction of the cyanide process substantially increased returns, so by 1909 3,379 tons of ore had been processed for a return of around 51,012 ounces of bullion, valued at £89,036.
The Broken Hills Battery held 20 stamps, facilities for mercury amalgamation and a cyanide plant. The original work engine was powered by steam, but replaced after 1901 by a Pelton wheel. This was driven by a 3.3 km long water race sourced from a dam higher up the watershed.
The Golden Hills workings commenced around 1907, following the positive returns from the Broken Hills mine. The Tairua Golden Hills Goldmining Company formed and sought a profitable reef situated on an elevated hillside above the western flank of the Tairua River. Three horizontal tunnels (adits) were driven through the hillside, including the 500-metre-long Collins Drive tunnel. Eventually after crushing 4,670 tons of ore, around 3,671 ounces of bullion were recovered, valued at £6,495
A further battery was also constructed by the Tairua Triumph (Taniwha) Goldmining Company near the Third Branch, south of the main workings.
In 1920 J.M. Agnew resumed mining, but his efforts went largely unrewarded. Those of the Wealth of Nations Syndicate in the late 1920s followed a similar fate. Operations then ceased, apart from a misguided government project to construct a battery near Falls Creek in the hope of prospecting for more gold in the 1930s.
North Island ▷ Coromandel ▷ Tairua
A very interesting loop.
I could walk to Mount Hihi also, the view from there was awesome.
And crossing this tunnel was a huge adventure and worthed a video, that I put on my youtube channel. Type "goffeur33" on YouTube to find it.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍