Mangahao Hydroelectric Power Station

340 Mangahao Road, Mangaore

  • Mangahao Hydroelectric Power Station.
    Copyright: Todd Mangahao Limited. Date: 22/03/2005.
  • Mangahao Hydroelectric Power Station.
    Copyright: Todd Mangahao Limited. Date: 12/11/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4066 Date Entered 5th September 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 1 SO 37751 (CT WN52A/811), Wellington Land District, and the building known as Mangahao Hydroelectric Power Station thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rarangi Korero Committee meeting on 9 March 2017.

City/District Council

Horowhenua District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Sec 1 SO 37751 (CT WN52A/811), Wellington Land District


The Mangahao Hydroelectric Power Station has technological, architectural and historical significance as the New Zealand government’s first North Island power station constructed as part of a national initiative providing a steady supply of electricity throughout the country. Completed in 1924, the power station and its penstocks are the most visually accessible extant components of the Mangahao scheme, which was an important precedent for the ultimate establishment of a national power grid. Significant mechanical engineer Frederick Templeton Manheim Kissel (1881-1962) oversaw the realisation of the Mangahao hydroelectric power scheme and was involved with the key, early, government-sponsored projects for power generation.

The Public Works Department (PWD) advocated for the role of the government in providing a widespread and reliable supply of electricity for both urban and rural areas through studies, surveys, and reports created in the early twentieth century. At the time, comparatively modest and isolated generating systems run by local councils or private enterprises provided electricity for specific localities. The PWD focused closely on the development of hydropower to meet the nation’s needs. This resulted in the design and construction of the first government-funded hydroelectric power station at Lake Coleridge in Canterbury (1911-15), under the direction of resident water engineer Frederick Kissel.

Survey work for the Mangahao hydroelectric power scheme began in 1915, but the realisation of Kissel’s plan would not begin in earnest until after World War I. In April 1921, over 200 men were working on the project; by February 1923, almost 900 men worked in eight hour shifts covering twenty-four hours per day. On 3 November 1924, Prime Minister William Massey officially opened the power station in a day-long celebration attending by numerous national and local officials. The scheme also included dams and reservoirs, a tunnel, an open surge chamber, steel penstocks and a tailrace.

The imposing concrete powerhouse at Mangaore is 84 metres long by 24.4 metres wide by 16.1 metres high. The exterior style was typical for industrial architecture of the age with its largely utilitarian character enlivened by classical elements: a raised entrance portico on the north wall, a decorative balustrade along the roofline just above the cornice, and the three levels of regularly spaced window openings (fitted with steel sash) organized into vertical bays separated by plain pilasters rising up from the ground through to the cornice.

The powerhouse and its tailrace appear to remain largely intact to their period of original construction, which included the straightening of a bend in the Mangaore Stream in the vicinity of the powerhouse. Additional seismic upgrades, including the replacement of a portion of the roof parapet and the construction of two transverse sheer walls, began in 2015.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Kissel, Frederick Templeton Manheim

The preliminary and final design of the Arapuni power development is attributed to Frederick Kissel (1881-1962). Born in Templeton, New Zealand, Kissel began his engineering career with the Public Works Department having graduated from Canterbury University College in 1905. In 1911 he was engineer-in-charge of the first installation at Lake Coleridge and in 1922 was sent abroad to gain experience in the latest practices in hydro-electric engineering. Shortly after his return to New Zealand he was appointed Chief Electrical Engineer to the Public Works Department and upon the formation of the State Hydro-electric Department in 1945 was made its first General Manager.

Kissel specialised in the development of water power, and from the small beginning in state enterprise at Lake Coleridge, he guided the expansion of the electric generation system throughout New Zealand. After his retirement in 1948 he continued in engineering and for several years was a director of William Cable Holdings. In 1932 Kissel served as President of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers.

The contracts for the construction of the Arapuni dam, headrace, weir and power house was let to the British firm of Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. The company's traditional field of expertise was ordinance and mechanical engineering, but following World War Two it diversified into civil engineering on a world wide scale. In New Zealand it had also constructed the Waihi-Tauranga section of the East Coast railway. The company experienced difficulties with the dam contract, and they received a release from the power house contract. This work was completed by the Public Works Department, under the control of F W Furkert, engineer-in-chief, who later was in charge of remedial work at the site.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Replacement of the stair balustrade at the entrance and some replacement sash on north elevation

Structural upgrade
1983 -
Seismic strengthening (interior steel bracing)

Francis turbine replaces Pelton turbines with some alterations to the exit to the tailrace

Structural upgrade
2015 -
Seismic strengthening (replaced roof balustrade and addition of sheer walls)

Completion Date

19th January 2017

Report Written By

James A. Jacobs

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Nigel Stace, ‘Kissel, Frederick Templeton Manheim,’ from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 October 2013, accessed 6 July 2016,

Evening Post

Evening Post

‘The Final Fall,’ Evening Post, 2 August 1924, p. 13.

Institute of Professional Engineers in NZ (IPENZ)

Institute of Professional Engineers in NZ

IPENZ Engineers New Zealand, ‘News & Publications: Mangahao Power Station,’ 20 August 2015,

Martin, 1991

People, Politics & Power Stations: Electric Power Generation in New Zealand 1880-1990, ed. John E. Martin, Bridget Williams Books and Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, Wellington, 1991.

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.