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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]

Fern Flat

Fern Flat.

Fern Flat is on the Buller river, in the county of Inangahua, and in the provincial district of Nelson. It is a dredge-mining township, and lies fifty-four miles to the north of Westport, with which it has communication twice a week by coach. Fern Flat has a public school, and a post and telegraph office.

Mr. William Hunter , sometime of Fern Flat, owned the first sawmill in the district. It was established over twenty years ago, and is situated on the West Coast coach road, about half-way between Nelson and Westport. The plant is very complete, and is driven by a large overshot water wheel, twenty-five feet in diameter, and working up to twelve horse-power. The mill gives employment to a considerable number of persons. Mr. Hunter also owned a station on the Matakitaki river, about twenty-five miles south of Murchison, and had it well stocked with horses, cattle, and sheep. Mr. Hunter came to New Zealand in 1842 with his parents, and was a native of Stirlingshire, Scotland. In 1860, he was one of a party of explorers of whom the late Sir Julius Von Haast was chief, and had the honour of being the discoverer of the first West Coast coal at Mokihinui and Coalbrookdale. In 1861, he was successful in floating a company to work this discovery, and was himself one of the shareholders. The schooner “City of Nelson” was chartered and loaded with provisions and plant for roadmaking, etc., but after considerable outlay the scheme was abandoned owing to the harbour being inaccessible in those days. In 1860, Mr. Hunter discovered the first gold in the Central Buller district at Doughboy Flat and Mangles Junction. After leaving
The Late Mr. W. Hunter.

The Late Mr. W. Hunter.

page 241 the West Coast, he took up his station on the Matakitaki, and opened a store to meet the requirements of about 400 miners who were attracted there by the numerous gold discoveries. Mr. Hunter held several public positions. He was for over twenty years chairman of the Fern Flat school committee, and was a member of the Licensing Committee, and a Justice of the Peace. Mr. Hunter died some time ago, and the businesses are now (1905) carried on by his sons, Mr. William D. Hunter, and Mr. Walter A. Hunter, under the style of Hunter Brothers, sawmillers and sheepfarmers.