Many Waihi people are throwing their support behind a new project proposal that would see mining continue in the town for at least another 15 years.
OceanaGold's Project Quattro is estimated to add $1.4 billion to the New Zealand economy and bring 300 new jobs to the Waihi region.
The proposal would see the expansion of the Martha open pit, a new smaller pit south of Waihi, a rock stack and a third tailings storage area. It would extend mining in Waihi to at least 2036.
It would also see the iconic Cornish Pumphouse moved to a new location to allow for the pit extension.
To many locals, the proposal was received well with one person calling it "bloody marvellous" and another saying it "could only be positive".
Concerns were raised, however, about the stability of the mine and how the large mine pit was seemingly getting closer to swallowing the town.
Graeme Fowler has owned The Chook House in Waihi since 1973 and described himself as one of the "oldest in town".
He said the mine "propped the town up" and the proposal would be "bloody marvellous".
In his opinion, many of the people with negative views about it were not long time locals and were more "green orientated".
He said there were rules and regulations that "kept an eye on them [the mine]" meaning sustainability was not something people needed to worry about.
The prospect of more jobs and money flowing locally was critical in a post-Covid Waihi, he said.
"We are all looking for a bit of stability at the moment ... this really is good news for us if it goes ahead."
Noeline Dillimore has lived in Waihi for about 50 years and had owned Dillimore's Flooring and Furnishings for large portion of that time.
Her husband's family had started the business in the town in 1946.
She said she had always been in full support of the mine and all it does for the community.
From giving money to local schools and "looking after" its tenants and the people of the town, she said news of expansion "could only be positive".
OceanaGold ran a community investment programme that had seen more than $1.6 million donated locally since 2014.
"This has always been a mining town ... I don't see a problem."
One of Dillimore's staff members had both her children receive scholarships through the mine that helped them through university.
A mountain bike track that was "well used" by out of towners and locals was on the chopping block in the proposal, with Dillimore saying she hoped it would ensure this was replaced.
"They listen to us, they listen to the public and are very approachable."
Alena Wiki, who owned La Diva, moved to Waihi about 30 years ago when her father got a job in the mine.
"I come from a mining family so am fully supportive of all they do for this town."
She said it was vital to the local economy and gave work to so many.
"It keeps this town going and thriving."
Waihi Convenience Store staff member Shrugan Patel shared this opinion, saying the mine brought people into the town.
She said it was not something she considered when making the move to the town.
The opinion was not all positive though.
Paul Boggiss believed the expansion was a "a bit concerning" as there had been slip problems in the past and this could potentially cause a serious accident.
In 2001 a family of five were left unhurt when their home toppled into a 50m wide and 15-metre deep hole that opened up due to subsidence in Barry Rd.
He said the mine could not control "all natural disasters" and expanding further into the middle of town increased this risk.
He said he was under the impression that they would be mining underground from now on, not expanding outwards.
His other concern was with the number of community groups that had been shifted around the town as a result of mine movements.
He had been a part of the local Scout group for 13 years that had to move.
"This expansion means this dream of getting back to such a fantastic Scouts' place is getting further away."
Another man, who only wished to be known as Patrick, said he used to work as a quarry worker in the mine and did not believe it was all that good for the town.
When asked about the movement of Cornish Pumphouse many answered by saying "again?".
In 2006, the structure was moved from its original position, adjacent to the old No 5 shaft, because the shaft had subsided, and the structure was tilting into it.
Assessments of the structural integrity of the building and a visual assessment of the pumphouse in the proposed new site had indicated that the relocation of the building would not significantly impact it.
OceanaGold would be seeking community input to guide the final design of the pumphouse's new site.
Meanwhile, anti-mining group Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki says it continues to support those in Waihi who oppose a planned expansion to the Martha Mine, and to raise awareness of not just the impacts, but the alternatives.
Watchdog says it accepts Waihi needs jobs but expanding the mine, in its view, was not the best way.
"Thirty years of mining and Waihi remains one of the poorest towns in the Waikato," says Watchdog spokeswoman Augusta Macassey-Pickard.
Bernie O'Leary from OceanaGold said it was committed to Waihi and part of that commitment was to work collaboratively with the community.
''We will meet with and listen to community groups over the next few months before applying for resource consents. OceanaGold stands by its commitment to Waihi Scouts to relocate their Scout hall to the new Martha pit lake foreshore when mining is completed.
"While we understand that the Scouts may be disappointed at the delay caused by any potential additional mining, we wish to reassure them that we will honour this commitment.''
OceanaGold Waihi operation general manager Bernie O'Leary said, if consented, Project Quattro had the potential to produce nearly 750,000 ounces of gold over a 14-year period.
"Project Quattro would compliment the already consented Project Martha. It would extend the life of mining in Waihi past 2036 and maintain our workforce well into the middle of the next decade."
"When OceanaGold purchased the Waihi Operation in 2015, the mine had a life of less than three years remaining," he said.
He said they had made a commitment to extend the life of the mine and develop the economic benefits it brought to the region.
Project Quattro would employ local people as well as bringing skilled staff into the region.
"We have a comprehensive current closure plan. Project Quattro would be incorporated into the existing plan to ensure that what we leave will be a positive legacy for the community."
Future of Waihi property market looking positive
Waihi's Eves branch manager David Sylvester said Waihi had seen huge inquiry numbers from people in both Auckland and Tauranga recently and he believed it was down to the town's economic confidence.
He said the mine and its proposals brought in jobs and security to the town, which was attractive to buyers.
When a person wanted to buy, it was part of their contract to visit the mine's information department to learn more about the mine's role in the town, he said.
Any questions they had could also be answered at this point, he said.
"I don't think I've ever known people to pull out after that information session, it doesn't seem to put people off."
People often moved to Waihi for the lifestyle but they needed to be confident in their business investment, he said.
This was where business confidence was "critical" and the mine played a massive role in this for the town, he said.
"Anything that provides an increase of confidence in the local economy is a real estate dream ... proposals like this are a signal of longevity."
If it gets the green light, he said it would play a huge part in pulling the town out of the other end of Covid.
The town had become semi-reliant on domestic tourism over the years and was well-known for its gold mining history, he said.
OceanaGold's property value assessment had identified that the proposed project could
have a minor short-term impact on the values of a small number of properties.
To address this, it planned to implement a 'top up' scheme to avoid distortions in the property market due to perceptions of adverse mining effects.
This meant paying a purchaser the difference between their offer and the market value of the purchased property to ensure the vendor got market value at sale.
OceanaGold Waihi would accept responsibility for any damage done to a home or its contents proven to have been caused by our mining operations.
On average, 85 per cent of OceanaGold staff lived in Waihi.
District leaders weigh in
Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams said any industry that would bring jobs and money into the local economy in a sustainable manner was something he was on board with.
Waihi was "more of a mining town than it ever has been" as it had been such a large part of the community for decades, he said.
However, he said nothing was guaranteed yet and the project still needed to go through a "robust" process to get anything approved.
This could take up to six months or more, he said.
He said as mining was a government permitted activity, he did not have ill feelings towards the project but it was more of a wait and see situation at this stage.
The project would bring about $77m a year to the national GDP, with 11 per cent of this falling into the Hauraki region.
Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie said a large percentage of mine spend did stay in the local and wider economy.
She said this was something she had noted in a report a few years back and for this reason, she believed an extension of this scale would be welcomed.
Service industries in her district and the Hauraki district also both benefited heavily from the work out of the mine, she said.
She said she would be interested to see how the move of the Cornish Pumphouse would go, as she had seen it moved in the past and they had done a good job of it.
"It's become quite iconic for the central North Island."
She said it was important that the community was well-looked after throughout the process though.
Mining had been in the town for more than 30 years.