After some fingernail-breaking digging, sand-throwing and
rock removal, 11-year-old Andie Gillings' hands were shaking
too much to open the drawstring of the muslin bag she
unearthed from a deep hole on the banks of the Shotover River
When the Queenstown girl discovered one of the 50 bags buried
as part of Shotover Jet's annual Locals' Day she could not
open it, so used her teeth to break the string.
Inside was what every child was hoping to find - an ounce of
gold worth an estimated $2300.
As Andie screamed, her friends, who were watching nearby,
jumped for joy before rushing over to congratulate her.
"This is awesome," Andie exclaimed. "I wasn't supposed to do
this - I was coming here for a birthday party."
Her find meant the celebrations for her friend's birthday
went up several notches and Andie was champing at the bit to
tell her parents, who were not present.
When asked if she intended to give the gold to her friend as
a birthday gift, Andie was quick to respond: "No."
Ngai Tahu Tourism sales and marketing manager Nigel Kerr said
every child drawn to dig for the gold went home with a prize,
with giveaways including trips on the Shotover Jet, T-shirts,
squeezy boats and chocolate.
The children, all under 18, had to complete a treasure hunt
from clues released on Friday and return their answers to the
Station Building in Queenstown by 1pm on Saturday. All
correct entries went into the draw to dig for the gold,
bought by the company from a gold bullion dealer.
The treasure hunt, and gold dig, was a fitting event in the
Wakatipu's sesquicentennial year, as Saturday marked 150
years and one day since Arthur Thomas sneaked away from
shearing at William Rees' station to prospect for gold on the
His historic find meant the river would soon become known as
one of the richest rivers in the world and gave Arthurs Point
Mr Kerr said the Locals' Day had been a huge success,
particularly given the inclement weather.
Residents were lining up at the river from about 7am on
Saturday waiting to take a ride on the jet-boats for a
heavily reduced fare. Proceeds of Locals' Day will go to the
Wakatipu High School.
The amount raised on Saturday will not be revealed until the
Shotover Jet Christmas Spectacular on December 2.