Today marks 150 years since the gold rush started in Coromandel.

On the Northern edge of what's now known as Thames Township the Shotover Claim was made by William Cobley, John White, George Clarkson and William Hunt - 4 friends who became known as the Shotover Four.

But there's controversy on who made the lucky find of gold.

Angela Curtis is a descendant of William Cobley and says there's some disagreement on whether it was Mr Clarkson or Mr Hunt who originally found the gold.


But she says at the time there was no disagreement between the men, as they were all good friends and shared the glory and profits.

"We know Cobley didn't find it, he was brought in, only a matter minutes after they found it, so it wasn't him. He was 28, he had been in the country for a few years, he just happened to be there when the gold mine opened.

"He was taken into a team of three that had found a waterfall of gold, they saw the glitter of gold from behind some moss on the face of a waterfall."

That waterfall was on the Kuranui Stream - overnight the men became famous as news spread of the gold discovery.

Historian Kae Lewis says there was a lot of excitement about the discovery.

"There were correspondents running around the goldfield, as they call themselves, reporting to the papers. The papers went to Melbourne, Dunedin, to the West Coast of the South Island, with all this news of gold, gold, gold, and the men started flocking."

However, most of the miners that came weren't used to mining solid quartz rock. They were familiar with panning for gold instead.

"They all arrived here on the shores with their pans, jumped out and started trying to pan the rivers here. But it just did not work out and in the end they had to admit, and it was only within the first month they admitted there was no alluvial gold here," Mrs Lewis says.

Instead of panning for gold, they started digging and learning the craft of using pick axes and tunnelling to find minerals underground.

"That was basically your equipment.

"You could have a wheelbarrow and you had this scaffolding which Health and Safety probably wouldn't approve of because it was sort of a bit precarious.

"And then there was a chute and they liked having chutes, where they would wheelbarrow the quartz along and tip it into the chute and have it come down into another wheelbarrow to be taken away to the battery," Mrs Lewis says.

After a while the waterfall of gold in the Kuranui Stream dried up. Thames mining archaeologist Dave Wilton says that was when underground mining took off.

"They started to go underground, and the claim got bigger. It got amalgamated with other claims and pretty soon Hunt and Co sold up their share and their claim and it became part of a bigger claim."

Over the four-year peak, the Shotover produced more than 102,000 ounces or nearly 3000 kilograms of gold bullion valued at one million pounds.

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