The arrival of Europeans saw the burning of the original forest and the valley turned into farmland. After major forest fires in the 1850s and 1860s, the valley was farmed on the eastern side by George Baker and William Mitchell, and the western side by Joseph Campbell. As part of the western slopes were too steep to farm, the forest was allowed to regenerate. It is now the best area of bush in the sanctuary valley.
Farming continued in other sections of the valley until 1906, when all stock were removed because they were thought to be polluting the water supply. The valley was then zoned as a water supply catchment and closed to the public.
Gold and quartz mining
Alluvial gold was discovered in the Kaiwharawhara stream near the Karori tunnel in June 1869. Because of the proximity to the city, residents quickly flocked to the area. By the end of July, however, claims in the upper stream were abandoned and new claims were opened downstream where the Old Karori Road crossed the Kaiwarra (Kaiwharawhara) stream.
Within two years alluvial mining had disappeared and was replaced by quartz mining. Water wheels and crushing machinery were installed by the Baker’s Hill Mining Company and at the Morning Star lease, but many people believed that some neighbouring claims were formed not for prospecting purposes but for speculative reasons.
Poor returns from all leases soon spelled the end of gold mining at Karori. Completion of the waterworks dam in 1873 resulted in the close of the Baker’s Hill and Morning Star mines as their land and ground works were submerged when the Reservoir was filled.
Two claims in the upper valley, Union and Try Again, although not directly affected by the water level, could not operate within the restricted access area of the reservoir catchment. When the Golden Crown mine also faded shortly after, quartz mining in Karori came to an end. Some small-scale alluvial mining, intermittent prospecting, and working of quartz reefs persisted to 1897.