Welcome  to the website of the Beaumont Residents Group.

Beaumont is a small town nestled in the foothills of Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. Located in a fertile valley on the banks the Clutha River, Beaumont is the gateway to Central Otago, and is 106 km from the city of Dunedin.

We have lived with the threat of hydro dams since the 1940s. Time and again there have been proposals that would submerge our community, our homes, our history and our identity. Despite the toll on our lives and on our families, and the lack of investment in our town, we have endured, and we are still here ...

This website is for Beaumont, and all our supporters. It shows our activities and our people, past and present. It records our worthy heritage, and it shows a community keen to promote the 'Jewel' of the Clutha District ...

Clutha River from Beaumont Bridge


NZ's Most Threatened Town

Since the 1940s hydro dam proposals have threatened our valley and our community. Time and again we have resisted and endured.

In the mid-1990s a petition against a proposed hydro-electric dam that would flood Beaumont was signed by 26,000 people, and the project was "shelved."

In 1996, Contact Energy inherited these controversial plans and numerous properties in the area that their predecessor, Electrocorp, had bought up. The land in question consists of 4,400 hectares, including two commercial properties, 15 residential sections, nine farms, 15 lifestyle blocks and 43 "small properties".

Most of these properties are situated between Miller's Flat and Tuapeka Mouth, and include some in the township of Beaumont.

Over the years, Contact Energy has done little to maintain these properties, so that buildings have fallen into disrepair, reflecting poorly on our community. Contact Energy has also refused to sell back these properties. This, combined with never-ending uncertainty over the future of our community, has effectively stifled local investment.

In April 2009, Contact Energy proposed four further 'Think Big' dams for the Clutha. Two of the options, Tuapeka Mouth and Beaumont, would submerge our valley.

In May, 2012, Contact Energy announced that it had ceased all work on the proposed dams.

Birch Island / Moa Nui Reserve

Birch Island / Moa Nui Reserve is an ecological 'Noah's Ark' in the Upper Rongahere Gorge. This 1km long island, covering seven hectares, became a protected area under the Conservation Act in 2001.

The Otago Conservation Board unanimously called for Birch Island to be given reserve status as early as 1994. The Department of Conservation began a long and complex process of securing protection after Contact Energy announced in 1996 that it had deferred development plans indefinitely. But the land still remained without protection when the National Party lost power in the 1999 election. The Otago Conservation Board strongly supported Birch Island being brought under the Conservation Act, and Land Information New Zealand also supported the change.

Protection status was awarded primarily because Birch Island has a nationally significant population of invertebrates, surviving in their isolated refuge, ostensibly because the island has remained predator free.

In 1995, scientists investigating the invertebrate fauna on the island discovered several new species, including a Peripatus, a genus of Onychophoran. The Onychophora is an animal somewhat like a permanent caterpillar, part insect and worm. It has been suggested they warrant priority for conservation owing to their status as living fossils, being unchanged in 570 million years. Due to their predatory nature they also have potential as an indicator species in the assessment of biodiversity. Scientists also discovered unusual beetles, moths, snails and springtails.

Birch Island has what is considered to be the most intact ecosystem of its kind in New Zealand.

River Trails Old and New

Beaumont is situated at the junction of regional trails, from Southland, Blue Mountains, Central Otago and Lawrence.

One of the oldest trails in Otago is the route through the Beaumont Gorge, used originally by Maori for mahika kai (traditional hunting, fishing and food gathering), for warfare, and as access to distant greenstone rivers. Beaumont had a major role in both Maori and European times as a trail junction and river crossing.

Today, the Millenium Trail follows the river from Beaumont to near Miller's Flat, along part of the original Maori route inland.

A new trail from Roxburgh to Lawrence - the Clutha Gold Trail, is currently being planned by the Clutha Gold Trail Trust. This will eventually form part of a Mighty Clutha River Trail along the entire Clutha Mata-Au from Wanaka to the sea, combining historic routes used by Maori and European explorers, and countless gold-miners.

The Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway Group proposed the river-length trail in 2003, and now serves as an umbrella organisation for local groups.

Members from the Beaumont Residents Group are involved in trail planning, and together with members of the Clutha Gold Trail Trust and the Parkway Group, we have scouted an excellent route down the true left of the Rongahere Gorge through native bush to Tuapeka. Planning is ongoing.