A stone cairn has been built on the highest point of the
Clyde Cemetery as a memorial to early European and Chinese
settlers lured to the area by gold who are buried in unmarked
The schist cairn was unveiled on Saturday by Cantonese
historian Leslie Wong, of Dunedin. Promote Dunstan organised
the project and about 40 people attended the unveiling,
including descendants of early settlers.
It was the final activity in more than 60 the group organised
throughout the year to mark the 150th anniversary of gold
being discovered in Central Otago.
''We wanted something lasting to remember those hardy souls
who came here in search of gold, and those who came here to
support miners and established homes and businesses in the
area,'' Promote Dunstan president Rory Butler said.
The cairn marked the gold anniversary and the contribution
early settlers made to the prosperity of the area, he said.
Many of those people were buried in unmarked plots in the
cemetery, or where they perished on the goldfields, Mr Wong
said. Some of the Chinese were later exhumed and their
remains sent home, but there were few records of that.
Cantonese Chinese described Central Otago as ''New Gold
Rosie Turnbull (nee Gye), of Clyde, said three generations of
her father's family were buried in the Clyde cemetery and she
was proud of her Chinese connections.
''This is a fitting occasion in recognising the part the
Chinese played in Central Otago history,'' she said.
Her great-grandfather was Charles Henry Wong Gye, who arrived
in New Zealand about 1862 .
He was a special constable appointed by the provincial
government to police the Chinese community. One of his tasks
was to investigate the validity of miners' claims, she said.
The Chinese who migrated had no tradition of mining but were
used to hardship. They were self-sufficient, relaxed by
gambling and preferred opium to alcohol. They made little
attempt to assimilate, as they intended returning home once
they had made some money, Mr. Turnbull said.
At one stage, there were 2000 Chinese on the goldfields -
more Chinese than Europeans, Mr Wong said. Some set up as
merchants and as the gold ran out, they found other
opportunities, becoming labourers. Central Otago Mayor Tony
Lepper said the early miners and settlers added to the area's
rich heritage. Life must have been hard for those pioneers,
who ''roughed it'' camping out in all weather, he said.
''But most survived and carried on and their ancestors are
On the topic of early gold mining, he said it was somewhat
ironic the activity ''had left a big mess and 150 years later
Four Otago Polytechnic stonemasonry students built the cairn,
using Galloway schist, stonemason lecturer Steve Holmes said.
It was fitting that stone was used, as early settlers used
the same material to build their shelters and homes.