- Population: 1,560
Did you know?
- Waikaka was the home to New Zealand’s cheese rolling championships
- Over £1 million worth of gold was dredged around Waikaka between 1897 and 1926
- The Royal Hotel Waikaka has poured pints for 154 years
Photos courtesy of Liz O'Connell
Waikaka is well known as a great producer of sportsmen and women. The Waikaka Combined Sports Complex is home to rugby and squash, while there is a well supported golf course just up the road.
While the town has lost a few of its businesses in recent years, the community heart is still strong.
Located just 28km north-east of Gore, Waikaka services a strong agricultural sector in neighbouring Merino Downs, Greenvale and Wendon Valley.
It is also only 17km from internationally renowned trophy hunting business Leithen Valley Hunts.
Waikaka owes its existence to the discovery of gold at the end of 1867.
The first gold rush to Waikaka was in May 1869. Soon prospectors were working across most, if not all, of the gullies in the area, and a make-do township was formed in the centre of it all.
By 1871 the township grew with shops flourishing and more people flocking to be part of the community. By 1873 there were about 800 miners working in the area, the majority of them Chinese.
Looking into local records, the story goes that “general giant, David Lamb, was the uncrowned King of Waikaka”. He belonged to a generation that laid the foundations of the Waikaka we know today.
The Gold Dredging Boom
The gold digging days were the most romantic part of Waikaka’s history, as well as the toughest for the men and women who sought their fortunes.
The lure of this precious metal saw mining company L & M Mining return to the area around the start of the new millennium. It made significant investments in a large-scale dredging operation, only to pull out after a couple of years due to falling gold prices and poor returns.
The remains of the company’s operation are still visible from Waikaka Road today.
Cheese rolls (hold the bread)
You might think being a southern town that residents are mad about ‘Southland Sushi’ (cheese rolls) as some call it. However, Waikaka took cheese rolling to new heights.
The Cotswolds, in England, may be the home of cheese rolling but Waikaka had the bragging rights to cheese rolling with the most spectacular view.
Locals farmers Bob and Rosemary Henderson started an annual cheese wheel rolling competition on their land to support families in Southland and Otago facing the challenges of autism.
Young and old would propel themselves downhill chasing a wheel of Whitestone’s famous Windsor Blue cheese to win.