Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 9, May 1968


By Caudelle Clarke

The name Hora Hora is said to have derived from characteristics of the locality. According to an old Maori - Waratine who lived there and died at 98 years the name means "the place where men were hung up to dry in the sun" and this took place on the Island. The old man admitted having eaten white man.

The Chief Engineer for the Hora Hora hydro-electric development was Mr. Gavane [Gauvain – E], well known in Waihi and Waikino as he was also the Chief Engineer of the Waihi Gold Mining Company. The original survey was done by a Waihi surveyor, named Chalmers, who passed away in Cambridge well over 90, at which age he was still driving his car.

The Waihi Gold Mining Company obtained Government sanction to develop this power scheme but on the condition that in later years it would be taken over at the original cost of £250,000. Work was started in 1910; the headrace had to be excavated its entire length of one quarter mile; the material being dumped into the Waikato River, an easy way of getting rid of it.

At the upstream end work began just above the Head Gates (see plan) leaving a protecting barrier, to be removed when the canal and power station building were finished. The canal or headrace was completely concrete-lined from the headgates down. The headgates would be fully closed while the barrier was being removed, mostly by hydraulic sluicing so that the spoil could be washed into the river thus leaving very little to be washed into the canal when the headgates were raised.

At the downstream end, just below the power station building the short channel for turbine water discharge back into the river was excavated by hydraulic sluicing finally helped by letting clean water pass from the head-race and through the turbines to wash the material into the river. The power station building was made of reinforced concrete as also the foundations for the machinery.

The original installation consisted of six turbines, each with four water wheels (called reaction runners) and located in steel compartments; each turbine was rated at 1950 horse power and the shaft of each passed through a water sealing gland into the generator room where it was coupled to the 1500 kilowatt generator shaft. The required amount of water for each wheel was controlled by radial gates, the movement of them being controlled by an automatic governor located inside the generator room.

While the Civil Engineering work was in progress orders were placed for the machinery, generators, transformers, switchgear and switchboards going to Siemens of Stafford, England while the turbines and associated gear such as governors went to Boving & Company of Sweden. Each of these two firms sent Engineers to install the machinery and among them were such names as: Jack Eaton Shaw; Jack Hurd; Rolan Morris.

While the work of building the power station was in progress the survey for the 50,000 volt transmission line to Waikino via Matamata, Te Aroha and Waitawheta was made terminating at a step-down substation behind the battery at Waikino, then on to Waihi at 11,000 volts. Towers of steel were erected and these stand to this day except a diversion via Paeroa instead of over the mountains near Te Aroha and through Waitawheta.

The Hora Hora hydro-electric power station was put into service in 1912 with the following operating staff: Mr. Reeves as Superintendent, Jack Eaton Shaw, Rolan Morris, Jack Hurd senior operating staff assisted by Mr. Nisbit, Frank Harvy [Harvey ? – E], Fred Lawn, Hurbert Howden, Stan Wood, W.D. Revington, Oscar Chamberlain and Caudelle Clarke as a cadet engineer from November 1918 to March 1921. The above mentioned staff changed as the years rolled by.

At the Waikino end of the 50,000 volt transmission line, the sub-station stepped the voltage down to 11,000 volts, 440 volts and 220 volts by means of transformers and the power distributed around the battery to 2,500 horsepower of electric motors of 440 volts. The 220 volts was for lighting, and the 11,000 volts for transmission to Waihi. The initial staff at Waikino comprised Mr Mac Andrew as Chief Electrician; Charlie Marlow, Clarie Whitehouse, Jim Farmer, Jack 0 Sullivan, Mr. Wayley, Jim Thompson and Dave Curry.

Mr Mac Andrew was transferred to Waihi as Chief Electrician at the mine and Mr. Neil McLeod was appointed Chief Electrician at Waikino, to become Chief Engineer of the Thames Valley Power Board. Jack Hurd was transferred to Waikino as an electrician and later to Waihi. Mr Mac Andrew left the services of the Waihi Gold Mining Company and his place was taken by Archie Crosher.

At the Waihi end of the 11,000 volt transmission line from Waikino the voltage was stepped down to 440 volts and 220 volts for motors and lighting about the mine. All the new electrical equipment at Waikino and Waihi was manufactured by Siemens.

Returning to the story of Hora Hora power station, it was in 1920 when the Government bought it from the Waihi Gold Mining Company. Mr. Gavane [Gauvain – E], came to Hora Hora and gave a farewell address to the staff and presented each member with a sum of money; he later left for England, his home country, to become a Director in the London office of the Waihi Gold Mining Company.

In 1927 two more turbines and generators were installed at Hora Hora power station to make eight.

Some sixteen miles down stream from Hora Hora, near Cambridge there was a site for the Karapiro hydro-electric power station. The construction of this undertaking was started in 1942 and completed in 1948. The dam at this power station backed the Waikato River up to form a Lake reaching upstream beyond Hora Hora hence it was then known that the Hora Hora power station would be below the lake level and thus under the water.

The question of whether or not to remove the machinery from the power station was debated and it was decided, due to loss in revenue, to keep the turbines running until the rising river level entered the generator room and when deep enough the operator went around the generator room in a small boat and shut down all the machinery for all time. The lake level gradually rose to its final level to leave the Hora Hora power station in a watery grave to be forgotten in the dim and distant future. I believe the apex of the roof is some ten feet below the Lake surface.

In conclusion I must relate that a number of very successful Engineers had their early training at the Hora Hora Hydro-Electric Power Station; some as Chief Engineers of Power Boards, others as Chief Engineers of Tramways. The writer of this history may be the most successful of all having started at Hora Hora power station as a Cadet Engineer at a salary of £3 a week in 1918 and over the course of forty-six years, slowly rose to the position of a Consulting Engineer at an equivalent salary of £190 a week or £10,066 P.A. plus expenses.


Consulting Engineer, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

[see also Journal 10: Letters to Editor - E]