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
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.