First published with The Advocate –

The Central Highlands region’s uncovered gold is drawing prospectors from across the world to try their luck at hunting for the next big nugget.

But recent state government inquiries into public land use have raised concerns key gold prospecting locations may be closed off to gold hunters if transferred to state or national park status. Gold prospecting is prohibited in most state and national parks.

ON THE HUNT: Creswick gold prospector Frank Wallis has been making gold jewellery for more than 30 years. He supplies some of the jewellery to Sovereign Hill and saves some for his wife Nola. Picture: Dylan Burns.

Ripon MP Louise Staley and local gold prospectors are pushing for the industry to be better supported and recognised in Creswick, Clunes, Ballarat and Maryborough.

Ms Staley said gold prospecting was important to the economy of the region, but the industry was flying under the radar.

“There are people who come looking for gold who stay in caravan parks for months,” she said.

“Gold prospecting is a hidden gem, or should I say nugget, of the region’s tourism. This is a significant industry that fills a lot of accommodation beds.”

JEWELRY: Creswick local gold prospector Frank Wallis makes gold jewelry from a workshop at his home. He made this gold bangle for his wife Nola. Picture: Dylan Burns.

Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria central branch president Bill Schulz said Victoria was known to have some of the best goldfields in the world.

“The tourists that come here spend thousands of dollars,” he said.

Leanne Kamp from Gold and Relics Gold Prospecting Adventures said participants of tours came from all over the world.

“We get tourists that fly in from America simply to prospect for two weeks then fly home again,” she said.

“The government has got to realise they can’t keep locking us out of parks. They are looking at locking us out of an area with excellent goldfields. It will destroy some of the smaller towns because that is where they get their business.”

EUREKA: Leanne Kamp from Gold and Relics Gold Prospecting Adventures found this gold nugget in the Central Highlands region. She said there was around a 50 percent chance a participant would find gold on a tour. Picture: Dylan Burns.

The Victorian Environment Assessment Council is currently conducting an investigation into public land around the Hepburn area and Mount Macedon. A review of Wombat Forest, Cobaw Forest, Wellsford Forest and Pyrenees Forest is also underway.

Community drop-in sessions were held in Woodend and Daylesford to investigate how public land is being used within communities.

VEAC executive officer Joan Phillips said the investigation was an opportunity to look into diverse areas of public land in the central west of the state and understand how they are being used and managed.

“Use of public land in central west Victoria has changed over recent decades and the investigation provides an opportunity for a fresh look at its use and management,” she said.

Creswick is one of the main gold prospecting locations in the region.