Ross is a sleepy township near Hokitika that was settled in 1865 as a gold mining town. Biddy Manera has lived there all her life. Her parents, Thomas (below) and Margaret, have a farm up the Totara Valley Road that has been in the family for four generations.
“Dad’s only 90 and still doing it! He’s been there all of his life, he left school at 12 and worked on the farm, lived off the land, they’re just a couple of hippies!”
Biddy is a local historian and has a particular interest in the Chinese gold miners and their families who came to Ross from Guangdong Province in the 1870s. At any one time there were up to 400 living in the area and many Chinese artefacts, from coins to Ming Dynasty teapots, have been found in the bush near the township.
“The Chinese didn’t just mine here they had market gardens so they provided food, they would walk into town and sell the veges they grew”.
A Chinese funded project is underway to develop a commemorative garden in Ross dedicated to the gold miners from Guangdong Province.
Biddy has always been an outspoken advocate for the community.
Recently she's won the battle to buy back the Ross Cemetery after she discovered that in 2008, the Westland District Council mistakenly sold part of the Cemetery that included unmarked graves.
“A lot of people think that it was just me fighting the Council, and I was persistent, but it wasn’t just me, I was speaking out for everyone that’s on the hill and their families and friends. It should never have happened.”
Thomas Manera, a Chinese grave at the Ross Cemetery and inside the local Catholic Church.