Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough
Striking gold in charming Canvastown
About 10km out of Havelock on the road to Nelson, there’s a slipway off State Highway 6, which if you’re lucky enough not to miss, takes you into the fascinating little village of Canvastown.
It was here, in 1864 that Elizabeth Pope first discovered gold while washing clothes in the Wakamarina River near to the present bridge, leading to the subsequent gold rush which attracted thousands of prospectors.
As most of the miners initially lived in tents, this led to the settlement becoming known as Canvastown.
While the village presently attracts a number of curious explorers, the locals are working hard to enhance the area in the hopes of attracting more tourism to their little slice of paradise.
For the past month, two locals have been working hard to construct a replica miner’s hut, which will form the centrepiece of a village green and serve as an information centre for the area.
Les Douglas and Craig Dobie have been the prime movers of the construction, sourcing all the bits and pieces needed, and putting their muscle into the building of the hut.
‘‘The miners’ hut for us is a key part of the enhancement,’’ Canvastown Community Association Chairman Alan Rees said.
‘‘We’re trying to replicate what life used to be like for the 5000 people who were living up this valley when the gold rush was on.’’
A lot of the materials needed for the build were donated by local residents Rees said, supplementing the materials funded by the Marlborough District Council.
The town is the sixth to undergo improvements as part of the council’s small townships programme, which aims to enhance the identity of small towns in the region by funding projects that improve outdoor spaces and urban design.
Macrocarpa was used for the outside cladding, and rimu for the inside lining. ‘‘These are the native timbers that would have been used in the old days,’’ Douglas said.
‘‘We still have to swing the door and do a few more little jobs. We’re planning on putting a screen just inside the door so that people walk in just so far, and they can see all the relics we’re going to put in there.’’
These will include gold pans, picks, and other mining equipment. There will also be a bunk, chair, table, and a stone fireplace.
On completion of the hut, the local committee will work on the physical enhancement of the village green area around the hut. There are pathways to be put in, more plantings, a rockery, and stairway down to the river.
‘‘The Wakamarina River was originally used as a staging point for waka from the marae up and down the Pelorus, and one of the things we have integrated into the plan is to build a wharf and an area to pull the waka ashore,’’ Rees said.
Of main concern though is the fact that the speed limit on Wakamarina Rd still stands at 100kmh.
‘‘It’s a narrow country road with no road markings or white lines. In some place it becomes very treacherous,’’ Rees said.
‘‘More so during the summer, there are kids popping up next to the road that have been over to the river for a swim. The last thing they’re expecting is to see a car or a truck come barrelling down the road.’’
The committee is working on having the speed limit reduced, and putting in road enhancements designed to slow traffic.