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Waihi Gold Discovery Centre

The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre is a fully integrated experience. At its core, the story of the town of Waihi – history, technology and enterprise – told in a way to promote tourism in the region by showcasing the heritage landscape and attractions.



The concept for the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre was a fully integrated experience combining retail, café, i-SITE and exhibition experiences. The concept was tested with potential audiences, and the top ranking ideas were then developed as part of the Concept Masterplan.

The Ghost Theatre

We had built Pepper’s Ghosts before, but not on this scale, or in conjunction with so many other elements of technology. To prevent too many nervous moments at launch, we prototyped and tested it several times along the way. The Ghost Theatre tells a love story, set in Waihi, using paintings and ghostly apparitions. The script, the set, the technology – were all developed at the same time – to see how they would all work together. The results are fantastic, and create an original, immersive theatre experience unique to Waihi.

Gamifying History

A Two-Up host invites you to gamble in a game that was popular with miners in the 1900s. In fact this was one of the most notorious gambling pastimes in Australia and New Zealand. We filmed each possible sequence of coin tossing and results – and people are naturally interested to play the game to find to what happens if you lose. The game has proved popular and visitors can’t keep away from it.

Modelling the Gold Mining Process

The idea stemmed from walking through the Karangahake Gorge and Union Hill, and only seeing relics. We briefed model makers to create a lifelike representation of the industrial landscape. In that sense it also works as a device for regional tourism, showing visitors key locations in the area. This was one of the most popular concepts tested, so we worked through successive stages of prototyping. This included a scale paper-mache model and a series of cardboard cases to get the user-experience right. We also wanted to model the contemporary process of gold mining – so for this we developed a LEGO concept. Working with a mining engineer and a few trips underground to film the machinery gave us a good insight into how it all worked.

The Experiential i-SITE

When we developed Wellington i-SITE several years ago, we knew we were onto something good as it soon became extremely successful. The Waihi concept is designed to achieve the same purpose – a light, map-centric, contextualised travel planning space. This completes the visitor experience in The Gold Discovery Centre as it offers a range of activities and options in the region based on the social and technological history described in the exhibition. The i-SITE is completely integrated with the exhibition, so that the whole complex works as a system, and visitors can make the most of their trip to Waihi.