Southland engineering feat ranked top

Credit: Original article can be found here


A cavernous undertaking - the Manapouri power station being excavated in 1968.

Supplied/Meridian Energy

A cavernous undertaking – the Manapouri power station being excavated in 1968.

After 15 months break About the South is in business again. Once again I am asking for good stories on Southland’s past, old photos, scrapbooks and slides and forgotten secrets. Here are a few specific requests – elephant burials, Aurora cave, Manapouri village, coal mines, oil drilling in Western Southland, Bluff guns, Orawia cement works, the Ventura crash and unusual machines.

Manapouri achievement

Southland’s and New Zealand’s greatest engineering feat (according to a 2006 survey conducted by the Auckland University Faculty of Engineering) is the Manapouri Power Station built between 1964 and 1971.

Second is the 1995 America’s Cup winning yacht Black Magic and third is Auckland’s Grafton Bridge.

The power project had its origins in 1956 when the New Zealand Electricity Department took a serious look at the country’s capacity to generate hydro-electricity.

That was the same year that the Roxburgh power station commenced generating.

In 1960 Consolidated Zinc and the government began talks on the possibility of a Lake Manapouri power station to supply a future aluminium smelter at Bluff.

Building started in 1964 and the project was completed in 1971. It involved the excavation 1.4 million tonnes of rock to make a massive cavern 111 metres long, 18m wide and 39m high to house the seven turbines.

Due to a design miscalculation the station could only produce 585 Megawatts of the intended 700 MW so a second tailrace tunnel was cut, lifting the output to 800MW

Pest on the rise

One of Southland’s up-and-coming pests is the Canada goose.

In 2011 it lost its status with the Department of Conservation as a game bird and became a ‘’non-protected’’ species.

Environment Southland classifies it as an “organism of interest’’.

Federated Farmers pushed for the change, correctly stating that significant damage was caused to pasture by the burgeoning goose population.

But it seems that without organised culling the problem has got worse and the population has continued to grow.

Canada geese were first liberated in Southland in 1903.

The domestic goose has been here since the earliest days of European settlement – Cook had liberated geese in 1773 – but it was never a very successful introduction. There had been a native goose, extinct before humans reached New Zealand.

A huge funeral

Southland’s largest funeral was that of Sir Joseph Ward on July 13 1930.

A contemporary account says: “As the time for the arrival of the funeral train drew close on the Friday evening, huge crowds assembled in and around Invercargill Railway Station to pay their respects to Sir Joseph.

“The cold quietness of the night, the stillness of the crowd and the silent bands showed how deeply the people were affected by the last arrival of one whom they had so often welcomed with cheers and song.

“What he meant to Southland can be written in one word, ‘Everything’. His solicitude is stamped on every acre and affection for him is cherished in every heart for he preserved a becoming humility in his greatness.”

Sir Joseph Ward was perhaps Southland’s best-known figure of all time. He was Mayor of Bluff in 1881 aged 24, a Member of Parliament and then Prime Minister from 1906 to 1912 and from 1928 to 1930.

Ward is buried in Bluff Cemetery and his statue stands at the entrance to the town.