Ross 150th gold panning extravaganza

Brendon McMahon

A meeting in Ross on Monday night has helped push forward plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Totara goldrush.
The anniversary, which pre-dates both the founding of the town of Ross, will be marked by a celebration on November 1.
Totara Goldrush 150 co-organiser John Dunbier, said a specific celebration was appropriate.
“I think it is important that we can have some of the events here ... I think it is generating interest,” Mr Dunbier said.
The Totara 150 celebration will largely focus on the activity which drew those first prospectors: gold panning.
Those attending the November 1 celebration will receive a ‘goldfields treasure map’ at a ‘mining warden’ tent set up on the Ross domain.
Aspiring gold prospectors will then follow a gold trail around the Ross walkway, Mr Dunbier said.
Budding prospectors would receive free panning lessons before panning from a stock pile of pay dirt when they ascended to Jones Creek from the trail.
Afterwards, people would be able to stake their numbered claim post in the Totara ‘goldfield’ and participate in a panning competition.
“They pay an entry fee and are issued with a miner’s right for the day. The miner’s right allows access to all activities.”
Other activities during the evening included a community barbeque, traditional games, and fire works. There would also be wood chopping and a period costume competition.
Mr Dunbier said there had been co-ordination with the Hokitika 150th Goldrush Committee to avoid any clash of celebrations. Other key dates will be marked, including the foundation of Ross township at Labour Weekend next year.
Ross first experienced gold fever following discovery of gold at the Totara River in late 1864, but this petered out fairly quickly due to the challenge of servicing that early goldfield.
Things began to look up with the passage of the first commercial ship across the Hokitika River bar in December 1864.
It cemented Hokitika as a viable port, enabling outlying areas such as the Totara River and the future Ross to be serviced and flourish as mining centres in the mid-1860s.
Important dates for the Totara Goldfield include the Redmans Gully gold discovery on April 22, 1865, followed by rushes to Donoghues Gully the following July and Pokorua (Jones) Creek in August.