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New Gold Mountain
Excited to see major new Australian drama New Gold Mountain go to air in 2021. It brings back fond memories of when I developed a series with the same name in 2009.
New Gold Mountain creator Peter Cox worked with Geoff Pinfield and I at Great Southern Television at the same time we were pitching this to NZ television companies. Fruitlessly of course! It was post financial crisis
, reality TV was kicking butt, and it wasn’t seen as a great time to be spending money on historical dramas.
My series is set in Central Otago in the 1860s - when the bilingual Chinese protagonist arrives in NZ in the aftermath of the anti-Chinese riots in the goldfields of Australia. So if the protagonist of the Peter's mini-series survives the Lambing Flat brew ha ha, here's a skeleton outline of a potential sequel!
Best of luck to Peter and the team behind New Gold Mountain on SBS - such a rich seam of material to mine and I'm glad its time has finally come. The news reminds me of how much creative slog I’ve put into ideas that sit unloved in my cloud drive. And reading it again after all these years I thought: this series outline is a perfect Citizen of Nowhere. Enjoy!
New Gold Mountain (2009) Series Outline
Episode 1: Blank Slate. Bilingual Wan Pei arrives at Butcher's Gully determined to make his fortune. But he discovers racial tensions mean that the local Chinese community live by one rule: find no gold. They operate a market garden instead.
Episode 2: Lucky Strike. He discovers the the local market garden is a cover for a rich gold mine that the Chinese are working in secret. But they can't get the gold out for fear of theft and violence. They're piling it up.
Episode 3: Easy Money. The protagonist uses his bilingual abilities to manipulate the situation: he arranges for a gold strike by a white miner as a cover to get the Chinese bonanza out. But it means more and more white miners arrive…
Episode 4: Six Feet Under. Wan Pei has to use brutal tactics against an impatient and disgruntled member of his own community to stop word of their secret gold mountain getting out.
Episode 5: The Acid Bath. Now he's running a commercial gold mining operation underground, in secret. This causes an environmental disaster when industrial levels of hydrochloric acid are accidentally released into the local river. This does not go unnoticed by the miners downstream.
Episode 6: Death and Taxes. Uh oh. A geologist who was a key player in the Australian race riots arrives at Butcher's Gully. Our protagonist recognises him and is tempted by revenge (he lost more than his diggings in Australia...)
Episode 7: Wine, Women & Song. The Australian geologist figures that the most likely gold diggings are... exactly where our innocent Chinese market garden is. How will our protagonist deal with this pending land dispute? Could this be Australia all over again?
Episode 8: Diminishing Returns. A fatal cave-in at the underground Chinese mine! Miners' bodies are returned to China in coffins lined with thinly hammered sheets of gold to compensate the families. Tensions are building as the white community can't find gold.
Episode 9: Going West. Our protagonist encourages a recruiter for the North Island land wars to offer guaranteed wages and adventure to thin out the community of white miners. But Wan Pei still has to do something to realise the value of his massive gold stockpile. What? How??
Episode 10: Small Beer. History repeats. Race riots. Mobs and fire cause the mine to collapse, entombing a mountain of gold. And our protagonist?
The video below is the high-level teaser of a 10-part series that was pitched to networks in NZ - but it's based on much fuller treatments developed over the course of a few months. The SBS series will have taken years to develop and write. So will be much richer! I’m delighted that Peter got his major series on air.
As for my background with this kind of material - I've done a few stories and projects to do with gold mining in Central Otago - as well as living down there at university. The^ story is influenced by dozens of books including contemporaneous novels by Vincent Pike, and histories like "Diggers, Hatters and Whores."
Rose Tremain's book The Colour is also a much read and cited stunner of a novel from this setting and period. It features Pao Yi - a Chinese gardner. I haven't read it - though my co-creator Geoff Pinfield has. But I intend to, especially as she lives in Norfolk like me!