Story: Hydroelectricity

Pātea power

Pātea power

Pātea’s first power station, shown here during construction, was opened in 1902. The thin pipe running down the hill behind the power house building would carry water from a nearby dam to the turbines. Generating 40 kilowatts, the power station supplied street and home lighting. It ran from dusk to midnight all year, and 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. in winter. When electric irons became widely available, its hours were extended on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The power station was positioned on a ledge on a seaside cliff. In 1920 the dam above the station burst during a storm, sweeping the two attendants and their hut onto the tiny beach below. Both men survived. Although the power station and machinery were left intact, a new, concrete powerhouse was built further down the cliff.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Beatrice Grossman Collection
Reference: 1/2-022840; F

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

John E. Martin, 'Hydroelectricity - Hydro, 19th and early 20th centuries', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 June 2022)

Story by John E. Martin, published 11 Mar 2010