March, 2022An astonishing feat of technology from 1886 will soon be safeguarded
thanks to a restoration project on the brink of completion.
One week more of building and the Bullendale power station, high in
Skippers Creek and the birthplace of industrial hydroelectricity in New
Zealand, will be back to its former goldrush glory.
The Wakatipu Heritage Trust has spent five years planning and
rebuilding the structure that once housed the dynamo to preserve it for
The station was commissioned by the Phoenix Mining Company just four
years after Thomas Edison opened the worlds first power station in New
York, context that makes it all the more impressive, trustee and project
leader Grant Hensman says.
Electricity had been in use only a very short time and it wasnt used
commercially at all when they decided to do this on the far side of the
world in a very remote location its pretty pioneering stuff.
The stations two dynamos generated electricity transmitted by a three-
kilometre-long stretch of copper wire across Southberg Spur to the
neighbouring branch of Skippers, where it powered the stamper battery
at the Bullendale goldmine settlement.
The site sits at the bottom of a 60-metre bluff, about three hours walk
on old pack tracks from the end of the Skippers Road.
This was an amazing undertaking given the remote location of the
power plant, high in the left branch of Skippers Creek, and the fact the
technology was very new, trustee and Lakes District Museum director
David Clarke says.
After the mine closed in 1901 the powerhouse was dismantled to build
musterers huts and the dynamo was left to the elements and
souvenir hunters, Clarke says.
As part of the celebrations marking the stations centenary in 1986, the
two Brush dynamos, laminated armatures, shafts and Pelton wheel ruins
were partially restored and returned to their original positions.
What had remained was put on timber pedestals, but being exposed to
the weather, the timber rotted and what was left would have
deteriorated and been lost over time, Hensman says.
It will be great to finally see the project come to fruition and the sites
example of Kiwi spirit preserved, he says.
To see that disappear, that history, would be a great shame.
It will be there as an example to future generations to give it a go.
Working alongside Department of Conservation and Heritage NZ, the
trust received funding from groups like Central Lakes Trust, Community
Trust South and Skyline Enterprises.
Source: Mountain Scene
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