Lake Margaret: Conservation of a 1941 Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Power Scheme

Sandra Hogue

Keywords: Hydro-electric power scheme, timber (woodstave) pipeline, conservation practice for operating assets

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The Lake Margaret Power Scheme (LMPS) is located approximately 10 km north of Queenstown on the Yolande River on Tasmania’s west coast.  Its history is closely linked to that of the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company, at one time the largest copper producer in the British Empire and the longest operating mining venture in Australia.

In 1914 hydro electric power generation commenced at Lake Margaret. It was one of the earliest hydro electric power stations in Australia and showed great foresight and confidence in the Mount Lyell Copper Mine by the Directors.

The power scheme includes two power stations, an employee’s village and other ancillary sites.  A significant feature of the site was its isolated nature with the only access for around 50 years being by an 11 km tramway.

The site is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register and has been nominated to the National Heritage List.  A number of studies into future redevelopment options have been commissioned including a recent Conservation Management Plan.

The power scheme was decommissioned in June 2006 due to major concerns about the safety of a 2.2 km King Billy woodstave hilltop pipeline, a highly significant heritage feature of the site.  The pipeline dates from 1938 replacing an earlier woodstave pipeline.

Hydro Tasmania released a feasibility study for public comment in October 2006 canvassing two main options for the scheme:

o      refurbishing the existing upper power station; or

o      installation of a new generator adjacent to the upper power station.

Both options require the replacement of the woodstave pipeline with both steel and woodstave being considered.

This paper will highlight some the challenges Hydro Tasmania has experienced in attempting to incorporate heritage values in a major upgrade of an historic power scheme which has strong community interest and involvement.

REFERENCE: Hogue, S (2007) Lake Margaret: conservation of a 1914 Tasmanian hydro-electric power scheme. Fourteenth National Engineering Heritage Conference 2007. Perth, Australia, 18 September – 21 September 2007. The Institution of Engineers Australia: Conference Papers.