Issue #6

21 July 2020

Inspiring stories, real news and the hard questions

No week on the Coast is exactly the same and this week is no different!

The country is gearing up for September’s election and bill boards are starting to appear in our West Coast-Tasman electorate.

We have had a stunning spell of great weather and the school holidays have filled our towns and villages with all the energy that only kids can bring.

Have a listen here as I outline more about this week’s Coaster’s Pass and give a brief run down on the state of our local economy. I think you will agree that, overall, we are more than holding our own in this post-international tourism time with significant government-funded projects and our own resilient West Coast character!

And as I said in the video, this week Coaster’s Weekly brings you another, genuine West Coast experience via our Coaster’s Pass. Check it out – a two-night stay at the Ikamatua Hotel for two with some meals included.

The Ikamatua Hotel provides a great base to explore Waiuta and Reefton. And while its location is handy, the real joy comes with the brilliant hospitality heaped upon you by your hosts, Anna and John McInroe.

You can check out the deal in this edition of Coaster’s Weekly and you can purchase your Coaster’s Pass here. Or check out the Coaster’s Club website here. I know you will love it.

If you are not already subscriber to Coaster’s Weekly, you can do so here.

Thanks again for your on-going support. If you have story you think should be told in Coaster’s Weekly, or you know of a couple of characters we really ought to talk to, please let us know.

Bruce Smith

Inspiring stories, real news and the hard questions

Mining: the life blood of the West Coast’s economy

A brief look at the long history of mining on the West Coast

Ever since early Maori crossed Kā Tiritiri o te Moana and discovered pounamu, the West Coast has been known for its mineral wealth.

By the late 14th century pounamu was being transported and traded around the North and South Island and in its day was the most prized mineral in all Aotearoa.

With the arrival of prospectors from Australia, Europe, and China, gold and coal joined greenstone as major contributors to the region’s mining sector and overall economy. In the 1860s gold was discovered throughout the southern half of the region, with alluvial deposits found from the Grey River and south down to Gillespie’s Beach in glacier country. Later discoveries led to mining further north in the Grey and Buller Districts.

The 1860s also mark the beginnings of West Coast coal mining. Bituminous coal, used as coking coal for steel production, is found nowhere in New Zealand but the West Coast. Most coalfields are in the north of the region, near the towns of Greymouth, Reefton, and Westport.


A brief look at the long history of mining on the West Coast

Mining: the life blood of the West Coast’s economy

The future of West Coast mining in these modern times

Pounamu continues to be prized by Maori in particular, and New Zealanders in general, also attracting a great deal of interest from international tourists.

Greenstone is now often sourced by gold miners while removing overburden and working through tailings. With regard to coal, the West Coast’s product is regarded as the “caviar of coals”, and the region’s coking coal is sought after worldwide for steel production. The top three destinations for West Coast coking coal are now India, Japan and Australia. Oceana Gold’s Globe Progress mine near Reefton finished mining in 2015, and finished processing in 2016. It now leads the industry in restoration, and serves as an example of how mining on conservation land can be done responsibly. At present, gold production on the Coast is carried out by small to middle sized operators. Gold prices are high, and there’s no shortage of opportunity.

Here’s an example of just one West Coast alluvial gold operation:

Mining: the life blood of the West Coast’s economy

Future prospects

With high demand for steel, coking coal will continue to be in demand internationally.

In the midterm, thermal coal will continue play a role in warming New Zealand’s schools and hospitals, keeping the lights on, and underpinning the competitiveness of our food producers against food imports and on the export market for dairy, meat, fish, and fresh produce.

Gold has been a prized resource for thousands of years. Historically used as currency and in jewellery, it is now also used for dentistry, conduction, electronics, medicine, and aeronautics. As the world faces climate change and countries transition to low carbon energy, demand for fossil fuels will drop and the need for other minerals will skyrocket.

​A low carbon economy needs wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, and electric cars.

Many minerals will be needed. Of those, rare earths, copper, nickel, lead, lithium, and zinc have been identified by GNS Science as being found on the West Coast. Whether payable quantities can be extracted will depend on market conditions and technology at the time.

Mining’s history in the region is due to pioneering, adaptation, and innovation, and that will certainly be the case in the future.

Mining: the life blood of the West Coast’s economy

Digging a bit deeper into the issue of mining on conservation land

Have a listen here to Patrick Phelps as he discusses the issue of mining conservation land.

He raises some bold points and opens the way for on-going discussion on this most important West Coast matter.

Mining Matters #3:

Digging a bit deeper into the issue of mining on conservation land

Mining: the life blood of the West Coast’s economy

Minerals and mining are in my blood

by Stuart Henley – exploration geologist

Minerals and mining are in my blood!

My father’s grandparents arrived in the Buller during the 1860s gold rushes. My maternal grandfather was a Scottish coal miner who came to Westport in the early 1900s.

As a small child, I listened to stories of coal and gold mining, and eagerly examined the gold-speckled pieces of quartz from the Red Queen mine in the Mōkihinui valley. During visits to my grandparent’s place at Seddonville, I developed a real affinity with the bush and mountains of the West Coast.

When I was at Buller High School, the coal industry was in decline, and the future looked bleak for mining. I started at Canterbury University with the idea of becoming a mapmaker. Influenced by lectures by Max Gage about mining and coal exploration, I found geology far more interesting. For a few years I worked for the Ministry of Works in Westport, and then secured a position with State Coal Mines. In 1987 Coal Corp (later named Solid Energy) was created, and after a few teething problems, coal mining really took off.

In the last 25 years I have been involved with coal exploration and mine development in the Buller, Greymouth and Reefton coalfields. Much of the exploration has been in remote, mountainous terrain, and reading about the endeavours of the early coal prospectors and coal miners has always been inspiring. Fifty or more years ago, the transport of exploration drilling rigs required great effort, whereas today helicopters complete this in a few hours. Rehabilitation, something unheard of 30 years ago, is now an integral part of mine planning.

Westport has been my home, and a large portion of my life has been spent in the mountains between Greymouth and Karamea.

Mineral exploration, tramping and caving are outdoor activities I have enjoyed in this area, and the great variety of rock types, landforms and ecology make the northern West Coast a special place for me to live in.

Caption: Stuart Henley is an exploration geologist, based in Westport. He has worked in all the coalfields on the West Coast. He is shown here examining drill core from the Buller coalfield.

Waiuta – gold mining town

Last week we profiled Waiuta, a once bustling gold mine town and this week we give you the opportunity to experience this wonderful location for yourself.

You will be staying at the Ikamatua Hotel which offers you another genuine West Coast experience!  The hotel is central to Waiuta and Reefton, about 15 minutes from each town, and we suggest you allow one day each to explore these unique West Coast locations.

The Coaster’s Pass consists of:

• Two nights accommodation for two in the Ikamatua Hotel
• Breakfast and evening meal for two on both nights of your stay

The cost of this week’s Coaster’s Pass at the Ikamatua Hotel is $390 and this covers both of you. Take a trip to the wild side Coasters.

Purchase your Pass here


  • The Coasters Pass is only available over a 24 hour period between 5.00pm each Tuesday through to 5.00pm on Wednesday.
  • There are a limited number of passes on offer each week so it is first come, first served.
  • The Coasters Pass can be used at any time within 90 days of purchase. It’s an individual transferable pass.
  • Once the booking dates for accommodation, attractions and restaurants are confirmed they can’t be changed

Making the most of Waiuta

First up , have a wander through your accommodation, the Ikamatua hotel:


Then wind your way down through history and the setting of Waiuta:


Check out the Waiuta barber’s shop – too late for a haircut but great to stand in a spot where time has stood still:


There is no truer story than a local’s story. Meet a couple of locals:


The old mine shaft has been preserved as a reminder of the once-bustling activity that characterized Waiuta.

FEATURE: Aratuna Freighters Ltd

From the Coast to the South Island and beyond

Andrew Havill and his wife Monique, part-owners of Aratuna Freighters, have plenty to celebrate in this 34th year of the company’s operation.

Andrew and Monique Havill hold the reins these days while Durham and Lorraine, who founded the company in 1985 along with son Andrew, remain committed to the company.

Today, Aratuna’s trucks can be seen all over the South Island and even in the North Island.

Employment opportunity:

Are you a truck driver mechanic or engineer looking for employment. Contact Aratuna Freighters by phoning 03 768 4029 for more details.


This week Aratuna Freighters Managing Director Andrew Havill has a chat with Bruce Smith about the company’s main workshop:

From the Coast to the South Island and beyond

Coast Property

Buying in Westland

with Graeme King

Graeme King Harcourts West Coast

Graeme is looking for listings due to the demand at present for property Coast wide.We get to chat with Graeme King from Harcourts West Coast about the property market in Westland.Phone (Home) +64 3 7558367Mobile Number+64 275990309Email

Posted by The Coasters Club on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Buying in Westland

Coast characters

Stan Dawson

Meet Stan Dawson, another of the characters that give the Coast a good name!

Coast characters

Shirley Jones

Meet Shirley Jones a Coaster.

10 children, 38 grandchildren, 59 great grandchildren and 6 great, great grandchildren and another due in December.

In 9 years, God willing, Shirley will receive her letter from the Queen (or King).

The former unofficial Mayoress of Jonesville (AKA) Kaniere, Shirley is a vibrant lady with a wonderful sense of humour. She is now residing at Ultimate Care Allen Bryant which is the only aged care facility in the area and provides both rest home and hospital facilities. Shirley tells me she is treated like the Queen!

Off the beaten track

Shantytown Heritage Park

Shantytown is a recreated 19th century pioneer town made up of over 30 pioneer buildings.

It has become a leading culture and heritage attraction on the Coast and is located just 13 kms from Greymouth.


Take a look at Shanty Town’s Free Masons hall:

Off the beaten track

Shantytown continued…

St Patrick’s Church in Shanty Town is a place of solitude and reflection:


The Marsden Valley School will bring back memories of how the classroom once was:



Gold panning, there’s gold in them there hills for sure:

Williams Hotels: West Coast hospitality and then some!

The business is 100% New Zealand owned and operated and looks to integrate kiwi style with international standards.

Tony Williams is the current owner and managing director and has over 30 years of experience in hospitality. Tony is supported by his sons who hold both domestic and international, commercial and finance experience. Tony is also supported by a staff of 150 who work tirelessly to deliver a warm and personal stay.

We get to chat with Mark Williams, one of the family that owns and manages the Ashley Hotels in Greymouth and Christchurch, The Punakaiki Resort, The Oakridge Resort in Wanaka and The Towers in Christchurch. He talks with Bruce Smith about the rise in ‘local tourism’ and the special 15% discounted rates on offer at Williams Hotels.

Chat around the Fire

Staying Connected

Andrew Crawford CEO of Sounds Air

Sounds Air is a very important lifeline for the Coast, keeping us connected to Wellington.

The airline has been operating for over 30 years and have vast experience flying in and around the Marlborough Sounds, Cook Strait, Wellington and Nelson.

Sounds Air was started by Cliff and Diane Marchant in 1987. They had a vision of providing low cost inter-island transport to provide locals and tourists with easy access to the Marlborough Sounds.

Since that time they have made over 175,000 crossings of Cook Strait as well as numerous flights to Blenheim, Nelson, Westport, Napier and Paraparaumu.

Most recently Sounds Air have begun flying Blenheim to Christchurch, Blenheim to Napier, Wellington to Westport and Wellington to Taupo.

Sounds Air runs a fleet of five Cessna Caravan’s and five Pilatus PC12’s. These are single engine, turbine powered and are the perfect aircraft for their routes providing high levels of passenger safety and comfort as well as being very sturdy and extremely reliable aircraft to operate.

The air link they provide from Westport to Wellington is vital for the Coast. Listen to what CEO Andrew Crawford has to say here:

Staying Connected

What’s happening on the Coast

Greymouth Motorcycle Street Race
Sunday 25 October 2020
Click here for all information and registrations.

Agfest 2020
Friday 13 November 2020
Click here for all information and registrations.

Ride the Wilderness
Saturday 14 November 2020
Click here for all information and registrations.

Buller Marathon, Half Marathon and Walk
Saturday 13 February 2021
Click here for all information and registrations.

Hokitika Wild Foods Festival
Saturday 13 March 2021
Click here for all information and tickets


For inclusion on these pages please submit your information here:

What’s happening on the Coast