Waitaki Hydro Village (Former)

Lakeside Street (Otematata-Kurow Road, Sh 83), Hostel Place, Kaka, Tui And Pukeko Streets, Waitaki

  • Waitaki Hydro Village (Former). Plan of Historic Area.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Waitaki Hydro Village (Former). Plan of Historic Area from Technical Change Paper.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Date: 3/03/1995.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7080 Date Entered 3rd March 1995

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Extent of List Entry

The area comprises the Waitaki Hydro Village, including the former hostel, nine houses and the stone walls surrounding the hostel and garden plots, and the existing mature trees.

City/District Council

Waitaki District

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Sec 1 SO 23618 (part CT OT13D/1190)

Summaryopen/close

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Waitaki Hydro dam (sited not far from Kurow) was the fifth power station to be built by the State in New Zealand. Investigation into the suitability of the site began in 1925 with work commencing three years later. Working and living conditions were very difficult at Waitaki and the completion of a dam across the Waitaki without the use of a diversion channel or modern machinery was seen as a civil engineering feat. Excavation work was done mainly by pick and shovel and only one full-time draughtsman was employed working from the drawings produced by the Public Works Department's design office in Wellington. Despite the difficult conditions, only nine lives were lost of the 500-1,250 people that worked on the project which reached completion in 1935.

The Waitaki project was not only significant for its innovative engineering work (under project engineer, R.H. Packwood) but also for the welfare policies that were instated to improve living and working conditions during the Depression years of the early 1930's. Permanent accommodation was provided for the workers and a scheme was developed by the Waitaki Hydro Medical Association whereby a small amount of money was deducted regularly from the workers' earnings and paid into an insurance programme to provide free health care for the worker and his family.

The concrete block houses within the area were built early in the project (1929) to provide accommodation for the camp's senior staff and their families. Single men and more junior staff were provided with wooden houses or huts in a separate part of the complex. In the 1980's the remaining concrete block houses, hostel and environs were threatened with demolition but are now protected by a heritage covenant which ensures their future protection.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Waitaki Hydro project is significant in terms of New Zealand's engineering history. Of equal significance is the fact that the Social Security system had its origins within the programme, developing policies on employment, health and welfare, accident compensation and state housing.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Architectural:

The nine concrete houses and hostel were designed and built as a complex and therefore have significance as a group. The 1930's bungalows were constructed of concrete, due to the availability of the material on site, and bolstered to resemble limestone.

Aesthetic:

The landscaped village complex of houses, hostel and surrounding stone walls has had little modification and is largely intact. This area has aesthetic appeal and emphasises the social strata set up within the project's workforce when comparing the living conditions of senior staff to more junior staff who lived in temporary timber accommodation.

The completion of the Waitaki dam project (1928-35) was a significant New Zealand engineering feat, however, the working and living conditions were particularly harsh. Policies on welfare (a precursor to the Social Security system) were developed to help workers in terms of adequate housing and health care. The concrete block houses for senior staff are the remnants of a large scale operation that took seven years to complete and employed up to 1200 people.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Cultural/Social:

Welfare provisions introduced during the Waitaki scheme contributed much towards social change in New Zealand. The housing complex is representative of the lifestyle of the senior staff and their families while working on the dam project.

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Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Information Sources

Natusch, 1984

G.G. Natusch, Waitaki Dammed, Otago Heritage Books (1984)

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.

Historic Area Place Name

Nine Houses
Stone Walls and Mature Trees
The Hostel