Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - ByDavidClarke

Ar­row­town is the his­tor­i­cal heart of the Queen­stown Lakes District. Nes­tled out of the pre­vail­ing winds be­side the swiftly flow­ing Ar­row River, it is one of the most pho­tographed towns in New Zealand. With its pre­served build­ings, av­enues of de­cid­u­ous trees, walk­ing and bik­ing trails, it truly is a town that com­bines his­tory with na­ture.

The Ar­row Basin was formed when the great glaciers carved out the Wakatipu Basin.

Lo­cal Maori passed through the area on sea­sonal food gath­er­ing trips, to hunt na­tive birds, and to ex­tract pounamu (green­stone). Waitaha, the first tribe, were later joined by Kati Mamoe who were driven south af­ter fight­ing with Kai Tahu. By the 1700s the three tribes were locked to­gether by mar­riages and peace al­liances.

Wil­liam Rees and Ni­cholas von Tun­zel­mann were the first Euro­peans to es­tab­lish farms in the area. Rees’ cadet, Al­fred Dun­can, pro­vides us with one of the first de­scrip­tions of the Ar­row River ‘flow­ing like sil­ver threads through the black­ened [matagouri] scrub­clothed plains.’

It was not the sil­ver look of the river but the gold it con­tained that caused Ar­row­town to evolve. Jack Tewa, a shearer for Rees, was the first to dis­cover gold around May 1861. He was fol­lowed by ei­ther Wil­liam (Bill) Fox or the team of Thomas Low and John MacGre­gor, late in 1862. Be­ing a force­ful char­ac­ter, Fox took credit for the dis­cov­ery and for a while the town was called Fox’s.

Although there were at­tempts to keep the dis­cov­ery se­cret, Fox was fol­lowed when he left his hid­den gorge to source sup­plies. The ‘rush was on. There were 1,500 min­ers camped on the banks of the Ar­row River by the end of 1862. The first gold es­cort car­ried12,000 ounces (340 kg) of gold from the area in Jan­uary 1863.

The Ar­row gold rush was short lived. The strike on the nearby Sho­tover River lured some, as the Ar­row gold even­tu­ally be­came harder to ex­tract. The open­ing up of the West Coast gold­fields in 1865 saw Euro­pean min­ers head­ing for the riches there. This im­pacted on the Otago econ­omy and in an at­tempt to stim­u­late it, the Otago Pro­vin­cial Govern­ment in­vited Chi­nese min­ers to come to the Otago gold­fields. The Chi­nese cre­ated a sep­a­rate set­tle­ment in Ar­row­town, re­main­ing there un­til 1928. In 1984 the Chi­nese

set­tle­ment was ex­ca­vated by ar­chae­ol­o­gists from the Univer­sity of Otago. Chi­nese huts and a store­house were re­stored and recre­ated and this is now one of Ar­row­town’s most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions.

Af­ter the ini­tial gold rush, a more per­ma­nent town be­gan to be es­tab­lished. The av­enues of trees were planted in 1867 in an at­tempt to make Ar­row­town look more like the Euro­pean towns the set­tlers had left be­hind. Churches, banks, ma­sonic lodges and shops were built in the early 1870s. Ar­row­town be­came a ser­vice town for the quartz crush­ing town of Mace­town and for the sur­round­ing farms.

Fire was al­ways a con­stant threat. A large fire in De­cem­ber 1896 re­sulted in the de­struc­tion of the Morn­ing Star Ho­tel, Camp­bell’s Bak­ery, and the top storey of Pritchard’s Store. The store was re­built whilst the site of the Morn­ing Star Ho­tel was left empty and is now known as Buck­ing­ham Green.

Af­ter the Mace­town mines closed down, Ar­row­town went into a pe­riod of stag­na­tion. The pop­u­la­tion dropped to 120 in the 1940s. In the 1950s a re­nais­sance be­gan as New Zealan­ders started buy­ing sec­tions to build hol­i­day houses on. These houses were known as ‘cribs’ and were mainly used in the sum­mer. With the open­ing up of

Coro­net Peak ski field in 1947 some were used year round. Many of the orig­i­nal miner’s cot­tages were also saved and re­stored. Tourism re­ally started to take off in the 1970s as peo­ple vis­ited to en­joy the town’s his­tory. The coun­cil of the day were en­light­ened by draft­ing his­toric zones within the town and rules to pro­tect build­ings and trees. This pro­tec­tion has con­tin­ued and has en­sured the town’s amenity val­ues have been pre­served. The row of miner’s cot­tages in Buck­ing­ham Street is one of New Zealand’s most pho­tographed street scenes.

In spite of fires, de­cay and more re­cently, devel­op­ment pres­sure, Ar­row­town has re­tained around 70 build­ings, mon­u­ments and fea­tures dat­ing back to the gold rush era. The charm of Ar­row­town’s past con­tin­ues to be its ma­jor draw­card but it is not a town stuck in the past.

By the turn of the 21st cen­tury Ar­row­town had be­come a pop­u­lar vis­i­tor des­ti­na­tion and one of the fastest grow­ing towns in New Zealand. This con­tin­ues to­day with over 20 cafes and restau­rants, ex­cel­lent shop­ping and accommodation, ex­ten­sive walk­ing and cy­cling trails, the district’s mu­seum, the Chi­nese Set­tle­ment and three golf cour­ses on its bound­ary. Through­out the year Ar­row­town hosts fes­ti­vals and many sports and cul­tural events which are ex­tremely pop­u­lar. To the per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion of 2500 it is a work­ing town based around a strong and close knit com­mu­nity. The lo­cals share their piece of par­adise openly with around 600,000 visi­tors an­nu­ally.

Ar­row­town is a town for all sea­sons. It has hot dry sum­mers, stun­ning au­tumns, when the tree colours are the best in New Zealand, cold clear win­ters with snow ly­ing in the town at least a cou­ple of times a year. and green ver­dant springs which see the av­enues of trees spring back into life. The town has sev­eral ski fields nearby and is very close to the wine grow­ing area of Gibb­ston Val­ley. Visit Ar­row­town soon.

Ar­row­town circa 1878 Buck­ing­ham Street 1905

Lakes District Mu­seum

Lakes District Mu­seum

Lakes District Mu­seum

Buck­ing­ham Street, Ar­row­town circa 1965 Ar­row­town from the air Lakes District Mu­seum

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