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History

Maori occupation of this area is recorded and noted on the Tasman District Council index of registered sites. In addition to hunting and gathering activities, the area around Richmond Flat would have provided a suitable place to hide from invaders along the coast line some 5 km distant downstream.

European occupation at Richmond Flat itself was likely to have occurred after 1857 and the discovery of gold. The Parapara Gorge would have contained alluvial gold in crevices in the bed rock and this would have been relatively easily recovered by individual or small party efforts. Maori were represented on the Aorere Goldfields and in the Parapara watershed. Small scale sluicing works developed into company activities in the 1880's by the Red Hills Mining Company. They carried out extensive sluicing operations on the flanks of Richmond Flat itself after building an elaborate water race from the vicinity of Happy Valley a further 2.5km upstream in the Parapara River. This race included a bridge crossing of the Parapara utilising a design of timber structure identical to that constructed over considerable distances in the Quartz Ranges 20 years hence by the Quartz Range Sluicing Company.

Figure 3. Copy of Newport map after Bell 1906 showing significant sites of goldmining activity.

Burning carried out as part of the gold mining activities and as a method of exposing suitable ground for prospecting led to pastoral farming. This farming was on the basis of 'matchbox agriculture' where regular fires allowed the grazing of a sheep every few hectares, particularly on the western flanks of this catchment towards the Aorere River and in the Glen Gyle.

H. Washbourne who had involvement with many areas of the goldfields in a variety of capacities, established a water race from the TRHS of the Parapara below the gorge to power a paint works at Washbourne Creek during this time. The remains of this race are apparent around the remains of the swing bridge in the Parapara above Bassets. The swing bridge later supported the pipes of the PHSC crossing the river.

Sluicing activities were carried out in the Glen Gyle on a small scale from the 1870's but with the formation of the Parapara Hydraulic Sluicing Company with a paid up capital of forty thousand pounds in 1892, a new dimension to the scale of activities commenced in the area.

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