Introduction to Gold

1 07 2011

During the 1860’s, New Zealand entered a prosperous new period in its history. There were widespread changes, particularly in the South Island, as new towns, new cultures, and new lifestyles were established. The catalyst for these changes was the discovery of gold in the southern areas, particularly Otago and the West Coast. The gold and the associated rushes proved to be very influential, and greatly affected New Zealand’s makeup in terms of the economic, political and social patterns of the time.

There have been many gold rushes around the world, and we can make comparisons with other goldrushes in places such as Australia, South Africa and California. When we look at size of the New Zealand rushes relative to the rushes of other countries, we can see the reason why some historians downplay the importance of the gold found in the South Island. The argument regarding the size of the impact these rushes made in terms of New Zealand’s development is still one of our nation’s major historical debates, and it warrants discussion amongst historians and common folk alike.

There is little doubt that the gold rushes affected New Zealand greatly whilst they were happening, but the majority of the debate centres on the long term effects and the implications the gold rushes had for modern day New Zealand. Some historians (such as Keith Sinclair) argue that the majority of the influence the gold had was temporary, and that current day New Zealand remains largely unaffected by the gold that used to be present in our earth. Others would say that today’s New Zealand would not be the same without the lingering effects of the golden 1860’s.