Taking the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth is a must-do experience for any traveller to the South Island. Journeying from the golden Canterbury Plains, across alpine riverbeds and through the mighty Southern Alps, the half-day trip is an adventure by itself. But what if it’s just one highlight on your South Island escape?
Meet local carvers
Finally, the West Coast is an ideal region to meet local carvers. While you’re in Hokitika, drop into Traditional Jade on Tancred Street, a family-owned business with ties to Ngāi Tahu. Watch self-taught artisan Mark Pfahlert carving pounamu. Buy directly from the store or purchase one of his pieces online. Before you head back to Greymouth (to overnight or for your return TranzAlpine train journey to Christchurch), don’t forget to pull into local carver Garth Wilson Jade’s studio on Rutherglen Road. With whakapapa (family) links to local hapū, Ngāti Waewae and Ngāti Mahaki, Garth descends from a long line of pounamu traders and today holds customary rights to fossick for pounamu on the West Coast. Talk to Garth about the best local beaches to independently fossick for New Zealand jade (yes, it’s legal to do this, but on certain beaches only) and the rules for doing it ethically.
Know before you go
As kaitiaki, Ngāi Tahu are the only people in New Zealand legally permitted to take pounamu from the wild. Today, their role includes authenticating pounamu and buying stone taken as a byproduct of mining. Ngāi Tahu also sell raw stone to registered carvers and sell and market products made from New Zealand greenstone. The worldwide supply of jade is running out – so the iwi (tribe) also plays a role in protecting the sustainability of New Zealand greenstone. They don’t sell raw stone to overseas buyers and ask all commercial interests who accidentally come across pounamu to authenticate it and not pass it on to the black market. You can support Ngāi Tahu by buying authenticated pounamu products and following the rules of fossicking: look for pounamu on the beaches between Greymouth and Milford Sound only and take only pebbles and stones.
Book your journey to Pounamu Country
Visit Tai Poutini (West Coast) and discover the magical land of pounamu by rail with our tours, trains, and short breaks