Down on the West Coast...

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Oct 12, 2011
Hi Guys, this weekend past was a long weekend here and I took the opportunity to go away with my girlfriend to stay with friends in the rough and ready former mining town of Greymouth, which is a four-hour winding drive from Nelson. Greymouth is situated at the mouth of the Grey River (geddit), a treacherous and powerful body of water, which used to be a major conveyor of barges filled with coal, as this part of the country is mining territory. The West Coast is an unapologetic place, as are the people; direct and determined, the towns here are windswept and a little unkempt, but are full of charm. I've spent time on the coast before, but my girlfriend hasn't, so it was nice to catch up with friends who are locals, who gave us a tour of the town. I took my camera, keen to capture something worthwhile.

On the way south, we stopped in Murchison and went to the world Famous in New Zealand "Dust and Rust" vintage shop. For me the attraction is not what lies inside, but the patina of the things surrounding the store.




Here we are on the banks of the Grey River. This used to be one of the busiest ports in the country, as coal by the shipload was exported around the world. West Coast coal has a reputation as being among the purest in the world. We are standing on a breakwater, necessary since the river breaks its banks every now and then and sinks Greymouth below the waves. The green stone is Greenstone, or Pounamu to give it its proper name. That chunk has been gifted to the town by the local tribe.


This is a monument to those who have lost their lives in mining disasters in the local area. There have been many, the last was in 2010 at the Pike River mine, where 29 people died following an explosion deep underground. There are memorials to lost miners all along the West Coast.


A mute reminder of the wharf's distant past, a coal wagon sits derelict and rusting at a heritage park on the water front.


With the earthquakes that have been ravaging the country over the last 12 years, many of the older buildings surviving in towns around the country have ben earmarked as being unsafe and are scheduled for demolition. In Greymouth, that means that many classic buildings in town will soon go. I took images of some of these to preserve their memory.


A general store's proprietor's name reminds passers by of the building's past. Soon this will be no more.


Beautiful leadlight windows line the upper faces of the shops. These will be gone unless rescued.


A derelict building no one cares for anymore.


A mural depicting Greymouth of old. This building is also going to be demolished.


The former Royal Hotel on the waterfront has sat derelict for some years now and will be pulled down.


Rumour has it, this building will be saved and will be turned into apartments.


Down at the beach and we can see that the Southern Alps have had a dusting of snow. That big mountain is Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest peak.


The sea is grey and turbulent here, this is the Tasman Sea. Next stop, Australia.


Not much sunbathing goes on here...


The Brooding clouds put on a show today.


More from the West Coast in a bit...
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Next, we drive half an hour south to Hokitika, the biggest Wee town on the West Coast. Hoki is lovely and thriving at this time of the year. On the beach the locals made this and its become one of those things that people wanna get photos of.


The Floof enjoyed the beach.


Nothing like the smell of wet doggo.

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Lola is the sweetest Shepherd. Lovely nature.


Outside the local Returned Services Association is this 105mm howitzer.


Back in Greymouth the weather had fined up.


By late afternoon the sea had calmed...


I drove to the mouth of the Grey and this monument to sailors who had lost their lives traversing the mouth of the river. Each plaque represents lives lost from a particular vessel.


The restless sea...




Down on the shore front a lone pillbox stands sentinel awaiting the invasion that never came. These World War Two relics survive in small towns around New Zealand's shores, There's one on the beach at Hokitika as well.


Dusk over Greymouth.


The next day we drove back to Nelson, stopping at the half-way point for petrol and snacks. This is Reefton, a gold mining town, still is today - the first town in New Zealand to have electric street lights and thus is named the City of Light, although "City" is a bit of a misnomer...


Reefton's electric lights still line the town.


Lastly, a stop in Murchison to photograph the classy war memorial, a very decorative example for a such a small town.


So, that was a quick three days on the West Coast. I hope you enjoyed it.

More images here. "Down on the West Coast, they got this sayin'
Do dogs ever think "yuck, wet human smell"?

Nah, the smellier we are the better, just like me... :D

Do they still mine coal in the area or has the industry completely shut down?
There are still coal mines here in New Zealand, Andy, but the industry is a shadow of its former self. There are one or two coal fired power stations, but weirdly, coal is imported to fire them. This is because the government wants to reduce the country's carbon footprint, so increasing coal output in New Zealand is anathema to government plans. Our power is predominantly generated through renewables, hydro and wind, although there are a couple of gas turbine stations, with either CF-6s or PW engines in them. Can't remember.
Lovely photos Grant, you're probably a bit lucky to find the weather so good but on a good day, its the prettiest part of the country I reckon.

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