While gold mining is no longer Arrowtown’s lifeblood and few gold seekers remain, Justin Eden bucks the system successfully continuing today to mine for gold in both New Zealand and Australia after launching his career on the Shotover River 30 years ago.
Justin owns The Gold Shop in Arrowtown which attracts people from all over the world anxious to see and handle genuine gold nuggets.
“In 1975 I spent three years living beside the Shotover River where I met three old gold miners who had been up there since the depression and were still living in old riverside huts – they taught me a lot. I had a motorbike so they would get me to bring in supplies and it was protocol to stop for tea and a chat at each camp so by the time I had handed over their mail, fresh milk and newspaper it was a six-hour return trip of drinking tea and storytelling.”
In 1979 there was a significant flood in the Shotover River and Justin struck gold and lots of it.
“I was sluicing the old-fashioned way and finding a bit of gold up there when the flood hit. In the aftermath I discovered one of the richest patches I have ever found and worked it for a month collecting over a kilogram of gold. This find really changed my life.”
“During that time I read a newspaper article about these metal detectors developed in Australia that cancelled out the mineralisation and they were being used to find gold so I thought that’s it I am out of here,” he says.
Gold detecting became Justin’s next adventure and along with his young family he headed to Australia working up into the far northern reaches of Western Australia. The Gold Shop was established in 1989 and mining continues to be an important part of Justin’s life.
“There is nowhere else in the world where someone will drop a gold nugget into your hand and we have some reasonably sized local nuggets on display in the shop. Visitors enjoy hearing gold mining stories at the same time discovering more about our town and its beginnings. I think they are often surprised that gold mining is still happening here and there is still gold to be found in the rivers.”
“The Arrow River has two kilometres allocated for recreational gold panning which is a significant area right beside the town open for public fossicking. Anyone can hire a gold pan from the Lakes District Museum or other shops around town and have a go – it’s a great free activity to do with kids and very popular.”
Justin attributes a growing interest in gold mining to the television series Gold Rush featuring American gold miner Parker Schnabel who visited Arrowtown when filming his series Parker Trails New Zealand.
“Parker filmed us in Arrowtown which was great promotion for the town. After filming we spent a couple of hours in the back of the shop talking gold and swapping stories – after all that’s what gold miners do.”