A story of gold, cyanide and thoughtful preservation
Situated within a large bend of the Ohinemuri River, opposite Waikino village, are the remains of a revolutionary gold processing plant that was once New Zealand’s biggest and best.
The Victoria Battery site was built in 1897 by the Waihi Gold Mining Company to process ore from the large Martha Mine in nearby Waihi.
It was at that time the largest and most advanced facility of its type in New Zealand with 200 stampers capable of crushing 800 tonnes of ore per day, bought from the mine on a 8km tramway line.
The battery used the cyanide process, pioneered in Karangahake, to maximise the recovery of gold from the ore.
The huge industrial site housed rock crushers, roasting kilns, cyanide tanks and large water races as well as other facilities like blacksmiths, a sawmill and a foundry.
Victoria battery operated until 1952.
Today the site is now a popular tourist destination with a pleasant loop walk to take you around many foundations and relics still on site.
The Victoria Battery Tramway and Museum Society have established an on-site museum, underground tours and tramway rides around the site.
On our own visit we just enjoyed the free walk around the amazing old site and were quite stunned by the scale of the whole operation.
I particularly enjoyed the information boards which had lots of old photographs on, depicting the size of the processing plant in its heyday and gave an insight into the lives of the workers there.
Mostly I just appreciated that it was now being preserved.
The main buildings may be long gone but the important history of the site is being given a chance to be retold and explored by visitors new and old.
Over the summer we travelled around the East Cape and I was disappointed to find History unpreserved at Tokomaru Freezing Works.
The importance of what has been done at Victoria Battery, and hopefully many other sites around the country, should be recognised.
We need to show off the many great historical and industrial places this country once had; not just the mountains, lakes and stunning scenery.
Men worked damn hard to establish a life in this once wild country – we should give them the credit they deserve.