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Lyell, in the South Island’s Buller district, was a major producer of gold and the centre of considerable quartz mining activity in the surrounding hills until the mid 1890s. Gold was first discovered in the area by Maori prospectors in the early 1860s. As word spread of their finds, miners arrived from other fields and overseas. The only access was by canoe on the Buller River with its many rapids and it was some years before a road was built along the banks of the Buller Gorge.

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