Te Ao o te Māori Nathan Wilson

Jul 18, 2014

Te Ao o te Māori

Photographs and Words nā Phil Tumataroa
A Window into the Rich Lifestyles of Contemporary Māori.

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The shifting sands of Hunts Beach on the wild Tai Poutini coastline have provided for the Wilson whānau for generations.

As the tide rises and falls, the ocean moves the black sands up and down the beach and with it deposits of gold concealed within its grains. Nathan Wilson (Ngāti Māhaki), with help from his whānau, makes a living from mining the fine gold dust using long-handled shovels, a home-made sluice box, and water pumped from a nearby river.

The technology is rudimentary and the principles are easy to understand. Gold is heavier than sand, water flushes it out, and the sluice box catches it. A few hours of shoveling each day yields on average two ounces of the precious metal a week. Currently gold prices sit at around $1300 an ounce, but can fetch over $2000 at times.

For 10 generations the Wilson whānau have occupied this coastline, and they have a long history of gold mining. With the rising price of gold, Nathan reinvigorated the trade about four years ago, acquiring a mining license and the necessary permits to prospect on the beach. His mother Maree is regularly on the end of a shovel, and younger brother William, home for a time after living overseas, also lends a hand. Father Paul is an engineering consultant who works from home, and across the gravel road lives daughter Nicky and her whānau. Eldest sibling Robert is dairy farming up the road in Hari Hari.

“My granddad showed me how to prospect for gold when I was real young – it’s definitely a passion, you definitely get into it – it’s a pretty cool colour,” says Nathan.

The Wilsons own 48.5 hectares of rugged farmland and bush which borders the beach, and lease a further 809 hectares. The property supports about 100 head of cattle, has two rivers, and is perfect for living off the land. They also offer accommodation with three self-contained units on the farm: www.huntsbeach.com

Depending on the season, whitebait, trout, red deer, duck, or possum (for fur) are often on the Wilsons’ dinner table or within the cross hairs of Nathan’s sights. The sea not only provides gold, but snapper and rig caught on lines, and mussels, pipi, pāua, and kōura harvested from the reefs at the southern end of the beach.

“Sometimes you don’t realise how lucky you are, living over here,” says Nathan.