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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]


Waikaia was formerly known as Switzers. In the early days of the diggings, the township stood on the crown of Carnie's Hill, not more than a mile from the present township. Plenty of gold was won in the early days from Waikaia, including Whitcombe and Old Man Range, together with Welshman's and Campbell's Gullies. Nowadays mining in the district is confined chiefly to dredging. The settlement is about thirteen miles from Riversdale, with which it is connected by a daily mail coach service. There are several large stations in the countryside, but of late closer settlement has been the order of the day, and there are now a good many farmers in the neighbourhood. Waikaia township is situated on the banks of the Waikaia river, which is crossed by a bridge at the settlement. The Waikaia is a tributary of the Mataura, which it joins about six miles north-east of Riversdale. The district is well-watered, not only by the Waikaia river, but by numerous creeks, including Dome, Garvey burn, Muddy creek, and Gow's creek. Most of these join the Waikaia, to the south of the township. The settlement is the principal one in the Waikaia riding of the county of Southland, and the riding has a population of 1,709. The township itself, in 1901, had 230 residents, while there were fifty-nine additional in the Waikaia Valley; for many years, however, in the early days, it maintained a digging population of 2,000 souls. The railway from Riversdale has been authorised by Parliament, and the formation of the line was constructed as far as the Mataura river some years ago. Some very fine views of snow-capped mountains are seen from the township, including East Dome, Middle Dome, and West Dome; the former two are, respectively, 4,350 feet and 4,826 feet, in height. Waikaia has a Stipendiary Magistrate's Court and police office, an Athenaeum, and library, two public halls, a public school, a Presbyterian church, three hotels, three general stores, two butchers' shops, three bootmakers' shops, a bakery, and two blacksmiths' shops. Weekly visits by an officer of the National
Dias Cove.

Dias Cove.

page 1047 Bank at Gore are made on Thursdays. The postal and telegraph departments have been represented in Waikaia since 1879. The dredging industry has developed rapidly since 1903, and in November, 1904, eight dredges were working, two were in course of construction, and two were closed down. More than one of these dredges had been successful in winning weekly returns of over 200 ounces of gold. Local government in the early days was under the Waikaia Road Board, but is now administered direct by officers of the Southland County Council. The Maori name of the district is said to mean rippling water, and as applied to the river, it is very appropriately descriptive—like most of the Maori place names. The land on the river's banks, and at the base of the hills is mostly of good quality, though in some parts of the plain, it is shallow and shingly. There is a considerable extent of farming on the flat between the Nokomar Gorge, sixteen miles distant, and along the river's banks, towards Upper Waikaia. There are several pretty lakes in the locality of Waikaia, notably Blue Lake and Gow's Lakes. They are embosomed in mountain recesses, or on rugged terraces. Snow-capped peaks are constantly visible, almost all the year round.