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Published: 30 April 2022

By Andy Ross

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The West Coast around Greymouth

New Zealand's West Coast, 'The Coast' to locals, is wild and wet, and that makes it so green and lush landscape. 

Greymouth, where the river exits to the ocean, has a reputation for the weather; people often refer to it as a grey place. The weather though is why it so unique. The rain falls in great buckloads and under the grey skies they sometimes seem Biblical in proportion! It makes everything grow and the green of the hills is amazingly vibrant. 

Greymouth has three roads in and out. The road to the South leads along the coast all the way down to the glaciers, and the other two lead along the coast or slightly inland and northwards. Each of these roads has a different feel. The South one leads past hills with windblown forests on their ridges, and then into the mountains that line the edge of the island. The coast road north goes through dramatic scenery of mountains and almost tropical plants. Palms abound and ferns on this route, and waterfalls fall from the high cliffs. The rivers on this road are rapid and narrow, filled with boulders and stones. The second road going this way passes through flat plains with farms of sheep and cows, and runs along the railway line, criss-crossing it. Riverbed here are wide. In flood the waters must rage and roil. At the moment the rivers are flowing, clear and cold, and blue from the snowmelt in the mountains. 

The birdlife here is something to marvel at, both the exotic and the familiar. The liquid sounds of tui and bellbirds, and the flash-flit of fantails as they careen above, squeaking as they catch insects on the fly, are a special kind of music. Along these roads petrels nest, and egrets. Herons stalk the waterways and hawks float. Pukeko in their smart livery of blue, and weka, brown and black and tan, dot fields and dart across roads. Sparrows live on the Coast in big flocks, and starlings. Thrushes and blackbirds too. Immigrants to this land across the world from their native homes. 

This part of New Zealand was goldrush territory, and coal mining too. Dotted around the area are old excavations and photographs from the time show the utter devastation that the mining caused. Gold mining used lots of water, forced through pipes that directed the flow onto the clay and rock faces where the gold lay. This, of course, resulted in lots of stray stones and boulders which were then used for walls and, in one instance, a huge Olympic sized swimming pool, the remnants of which can still be seen. Although the days when the populations of these out-of-town places were much larger are gone, the forest and bush regeneration is covering the land once again and bringing people into the Coast to marvel at the incredible diversity of life in this wondrous place.