Lake Coleridge's powerful history

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Lake Coleridge's powerful history

Lake Coleridge’s Village and Power Station has a lot more history than what first meets the eye.

With stunning landscapes, formed over millions of years by huge glaciers, earthquakes, wind, rain, frost, snow and volcanoes, there is no denying that the scenery is nothing less than spectacular.

In 1914, New Zealand’s very first major hydroelectric power station was opened at Lake Coleridge.

This was a major engineering feat for New Zealand, especially as they were just starting to use electricity. It provided a fantastic source of supply for New Zealand itself, particularly to that of Christchurch whose total power needs in the early 20th century were met by this power station. And the fact that is was built on loose shingle of the Rakaia River contributed to world knowledge on how to construct hydro plants on such surfaces.

Still to this day, there exists a cottage that was built in this time period which was used as a show home to demonstrate how electricity works. Despite being now under private ownership, the cottage itself is in mint condition.

Historic show home that provided demonstrations on how to use electricity, still in mint condition.

And with a unique two-teacher school (unfortunately now gone), this village was peaceful and hidden away from the hustle and bustle of city life, with a small population made up of families and those employed at the power station.

In returning to the beauty and scenery that cannot be simply skimmed over when it comes to Lake Coleridge, one man that is due credit for some of its beauty is that of Harry Hart. Hart was the superintendent of the Power Station from 1923 to 1953.

Over the decades, he collected tree seedlings from all over the world and planted them in Lake Coleridge’s village. This has resulted in one of the largest Conifer collections in the Southern Hemisphere and is a marvel to witness!

Many trees are still standing, and visitors can learn about some of them on the Harry Hart Arboretum Tree Trail.

Nowadays, Lake Coleridge is home to no more than a couple of dozen families, with many of the homes being used purely as holiday homes. However, at any given time there are a multitude of activities that can be pursued near the village. With three ski fields nearby, winter is a popular time for tourists to visit.

Lake Coleridge Village

Even if you intend to only stay for the day, pack a picnic to have on the village green and discover this hidden gem of a retreat. With the village itself having that alpine charm, only an hour away from Christchurch, it is a prime spot to escape the chaos of day-to-day life. From boating and lake activities to renowned horse trekking trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

To learn more about Lake Coleridge and its unique history and current day expectations, visit this website and discover more about some of the famous trails and walks around it such as the Tail Race Walk.

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