West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield is sitting on a goldmine.
He doesn't have much choice: his alluvial mining claim near Hokitika had to close down last week like most other businesses deemed 'non-essential'.
But until the Covid-19 emergency brought the economy to a shuddering halt, it was producing enough of the precious metal each week to pay the wage bill for nine employees and return a useful profit.
The gold needed to top up the pay packets this time doesn't look like a lot - a scant couple of teaspoons of tiny flecks. But smelted down it's worth about $5000. And that is $5000 the New Zealand economy didn't have the week before.
Cleaning the golden flakes, turning them into molten metal, pouring the seething liquid into a mould and heading off to the bank to sort the wages are regular chores for the regional chairman.
The 70-year-old has been a goldminer for 40 years, and also has a quarter share in Birchfield Coal Mines.
"The coalmines are still going - they're classed an essential industry; the dairy factory runs on coal and if the supply stopped they'd have to shut down and tip out milk," Mr Birchfield says.
"But I've got nine employees sitting at home who'd normally be out finding gold."
There's a case to be made, he says, for seeing gold recovery as essential.
"We're creating currency, and we surely need that right now. We need overseas funds, and it would seem like common sense to keep goldmines going."
Alluvial goldmining is done by large machinery these days, and could be done safely in the Covid-19 emergency.
"The employees go to work in separate vehicles; they work quite big distances apart on the claim and we could put safety protocols in place just as the coalmines have."
He is philosophical about the restrictions.
"I can understand the need for caution - we've had this first Covid-19 death here on the Coast, and there are family connections with one of our councillors, and we all feel it."
Nevertheless, Mr Birchfield is hoping the government will review its list of what is and what is not an essential service.
"Goldmining is one industry that can be done safely in the current environment, and given the shock to the economy it needs all the help we can give it right now."
Strict controls on 'essential services' during Level 4
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment defines essential services as those providing the necessities of life, including food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support.
It recently relaxed its criteria to include some online sales of items such as whiteware, bedding and blankets, and computer equipment for working from home.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.