Prospecting for gold is growing in popularity by the year, but amateurs looking for a quick fortune can damage the environment
When travelling up the glacial rivers that thread through parts of New Zealands rugged South Island Jackie Adams often uses his 1500CC motorbike to move quickly over the shingle beds.
But in his line of business speedboats and helicopters can come in handy too.
No-one expects someone from the government to cruise up a river on a motorbike, said Adams.
The former British Army colonels unique job is to hunt for illegal gold miners, an increasingly large number of them who work the ground at night.
It is a job this burly Irishmen who served in Bosnia during the war never imagined hed be doing – especially alone in the remote wild west of the south island, where the summer season of illegal gold-mining is just beginning to heat up.
A lot of these cowboys, they think that gold just jumps into their hands, said Adams, who also worked as a police detective in New Zealand, heading the CIB unit on the west coast.
But they have no real knowledge or feel for mining and they are giving the fourth and fifth generation miners on the coast a bad-name.
With the price of gold recently fetching nearly NZ$1800 (1000) an ounce, Adams has been brought in by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals to investigate the black market trade; mostly conducted by opportunists who sneak onto private farm land and national parks without permits to fossick for gold.
The modern-day gold rush is particularly evident on the coast, with the regions mining history and crumpling traditional employment paths attracting prospectors from around the country – and the world.