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Page 4 – From boom to bust

Photos of Waiuta then and now - click on thumbnails to see full images.

Waiuta's jubilee

Most mining towns lasted only a few years. In 1931 Waiuta celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the mine and settlement. The jubilee was an important milestone, and seemed to indicate that Waiuta had a future as well as a past. Old timers were welcomed back to town, and there was a parade and a variety of social functions.

Things were looking up for the town. In the preceding years the mine had struggled to break even, and it had not paid a dividend to shareholders since 1926. A rise in the world price of gold made the mine more profitable, and good dividends were paid for the next decade. Some of the money was reinvested in the mine. The company completed the sinking of a second shaft and built a new ball-mill processing plant. The population of Waiuta was swelled by men involved in construction, and by 1939 the future looked bright.

In decline

The outbreak of the Second World War led to a gradual decline in the number of miners. Many volunteered for military service, while others found jobs elsewhere. Between 1939 and 1946 the number of men employed by the company fell from 240 to 113. During the same period the output of gold dropped to less than a third of its pre-war amount. It remained difficult to recruit experienced miners after the war.

The end of the Blackwater mine came suddenly. On 9 July 1951 there was a major collapse in the original Blackwater shaft, then used for ventilation, pumping and electricity supply. Without power the pumps stopped, and the mine began to flood. On 17 July the company's London-based Board of Directors decided to abandon the mine. There was no alternative employment in the area, so within a few weeks many miners and their families had left the area. Most buildings were dismantled and carted away as there was a shortage of building materials. Within a few months Waiuta was almost a ghost town.

Waiuta today

Waiuta is now public conservation land, managed as an important historic site by the Department of Conservation. Display boards and signposts indicate many of the features of the town and its mining relics. Few buildings remain – one of those still there is the cottage in which Joseph Divis lived until not long before his death in 1967. Some of the miners' tracks are maintained as walking tracks.

How to cite this page

From boom to bust, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated