Reefton, seen in 2009
In 1888 Reefton became the first town in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere to receive electricity, and its streets were lit by commercial electricity generated by the Reefton Power Station.
The population was 951 in the 2006 Census, a decrease of 36 from 2001.
IndustryRich veins of gold found in a quartz reef near the town led to its name, and also its former name of Quartzopolis. Gold was first discovered near the town in 1866, although the major discovery was made in 1870. Soon after, the town briefly boasted a population of several thousand. This has dwindled to less than a thousand, but with the opening of an Australian owned goldmine the population is expected to grow by several hundred. Other industries in the town are coal mining, forestry, tourism and angling.
Locally received radio stations include repeaters of both Classic Hits Scenicland FM from Greymouth and Coast FM from Westport. The Greymouth Star newspaper is also received daily in the town.
RailwaysReefton is located on the Stillwater–Westport Line railway, which diverges from the Midland Line in Stillwater. On 29 February 1892, the line was opened to Reefton, but it terminated on the southern bank of the Inangahua River opposite the town. Early in the 20th century, a bridge was built across the river and the present-day station established in Reefton. The line was opened beyond Reefton to Cronadun in 1908, but it was not until 5 December 1943 that the line officially became a through route to Westport, though trains had been operating the length of the line since July 1942. On 3 August 1936, a railcar passenger service began operating in the morning between Hokitika and Reefton utilising small Leyland diesel railcars, but low patronage meant this service ceased to operate all the way to Reefton in August 1938. In the early 1940s, much larger Vulcan railcars were introduced to New Zealand and they provided two services to Reefton: one local service from Greymouth that terminated in Reefton, and a service that ran between Westport and Stillwater to connect with the West Coast Express. In 1967, all passenger services through Reefton ceased. Today, the primary traffic on the railway is coal, with multiple coal trains operating daily.
- 1866 - Gold discovered
- 1888 - Town electricity
- 1892 - Railway line opens.
- 1908 - line to Cronadun opened.
- 1912 - Reefton "lock out"
- 1967 - Rail passenger services cease.
EducationThe first state school in Reefton was founded in 1878, and there were once 24 schools in the area.
Reefton Area School is a composite (years 1–15) school with a decile rating of 3 and a roll of 238. Reefton School and Inangahua College merged to form Reefton Area School in 2004. Sacred Heart School is a full primary (years 1–8) school with a decile rating of 4 and a roll of 32. It is a state integrated Catholic school. Both schools are coeducational.
- "Education Review Report: Sacred Heart School". Education Review Office. December 2007.