Ross Creek Earth Dam

Off Burma Rd, Ross Creek Water Reserve, Dunedin

  • Ross Creek Earth Dam.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Derek Smith. Date: 5/07/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Derek Smith. Date: 5/07/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4922 Date Entered 20th July 1989

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City/District Council

Dunedin City

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 49-52 Deeds plan 143 pts 43-47 R Blk V etc Upper Kaikorai SD

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Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

This is the oldest large dam still in use in New Zealand, being five years older than the lower Karori Dam, Wellington. In fact these two dams and the Eweburn Dam (1900) are the only nineteenth century dams still in use in New Zealand.

The Ross Creek Reservoir was brought into commission in 1867, after abortive attempts by a private company to build it in 1863. A new plan, designed by the engineer Ralph Donkin, was put forward in January 1864 by another private company, The Water Works Company, which was backed by a provincial guarantee. The work was eventually begun in September 1865, with 60-70 men under the contractor, David Proudfoot, making the stormwater channel. The scheme was finished in 1867. It was to be sufficient to supply 20 gallons per head to 20,000 people, covered ten acres, and the cost was estimated at £30,000. It was christened the Royal Albert Dam, a name which was promptly forgotten. The reservoir was too low to supply the higher parts of the city and the expanding suburbs, and in the course of discussion with the city it was decided that the Company should be bought out so that the city could manage the expansion of the system. The City took over in 1875. The dam is still a functional part of the city water supply and has a considerable working life.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE:

This is a typical example of a nineteenth century earth dam. The stone lined channels are particularly fine examples of functional nineteenth century stonework.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK SIGNIFICANCE:

The Ross Creek reservoir is in a pleasant forested gully and is part of a favoured walking and jogging area for people from the nearby suburbs.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Donkin, Ralph

Donkin (1836-1904) was born and educated in England, where he trained as a civil engineer. In 1864 he was Engineer to the Dunedin Waterworks Company having previously worked at Yan Yean Waterworks, Victoria.

Donkin favoured Ross Creek as the source of Dunedin's water supply and was responsible for the design of the Ross Creek Earth Dam (1865-67).

In 1893 he was engaged to carry out a survey for the railway to connect New Plymouth with the Main Trunk Railway. In 1894 he left New Zealand to go to Coolgardie where he practised engineering. He died in Perth.

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Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION (STYLE):

A simple industrial structure, using local stone and clay. The dam is 121.6 metres along the crest and 22.8 metres high, holding back 209,000 cubic metres of water. The stone valve tower sits just within the edge of the inner camber of the dam. Two pipes of cast iron, a nine inch scour pipe and a 14 inch main, run from the base of the valve tower under the dam to new control valves at the lower edge of the dam. The spillway has walls of massive blocks of Port Chalmers breccia with a concrete floor, which has had a secondary channel formed in it.

The reservoir is in two sections with a secondary wall holding back an upper ponding area. Storm channels bypass the whole dam on both sides. The one on the south side is stone-lined and carries the Ross Creek water. The one on the north side rarely carries water but provides an overflow for the upper part of the reservoir and any side creeks. It shows the original stone work which probably underlies the full length of both channels. The stone is well dressed, squared, carefully fitted and pointed. The bottom of the channel has lateral cambers and the stones are carefully aligned at the change of angle. The sides are nearly vertical. The stone is all Leith Valley andesite, presumably from the quarry immediately downstream of the dam and even from the adjacent valley walls.

MODIFICATIONS:

The dam has required repairs for leaks several times - 1886, 1894 and 1972.

At some stage control of the water outlet was shifted from the valve tower within the dam to valves at the lower and outer edges of the dam.

Notable Features

The age of the dam, the stone work in the north channel and its relative size for an early earth dam.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1866 - 1867

Restoration
2013 -
Restoration of the dam's earth embankment

Construction Details

Ross Creek Dam is a puddled clay dam with some rip-rap and concrete lining.

Completion Date

29th March 1989

Other Information

A copy of this report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office

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.