Reefton Power Station

Engineering Site (eg Portland cement works, Maori fortifications)


In 1886, following a demonstration of electric lighting in four of the hotels in Reefton by self styled “electrician”, Walter Prince, it was decided to form a company to build a power station to provide electricity for the lighting the town. The Reefton Power Station was completed a few years later and on 4 August 1888 it became the first public power supply in New Zealand.

The scheme involved an intake some 2 kilometres up the Inangahua River above Reefton (opposite the township of Blacks Point) feeding water into a headrace flume 6 feet (ft) wide and 5 ft deep on the left bank of the river. A couple of sections of the headrace needed tunnels where slips had occurred. The station had a head of 8.3 metres and a 70 horse-power (hp) Rafel turbine belt drove a 20 kilowatts (kW) 30/110 volt DC Crompton bipolar dynamo. It was intended to supply sufficient for 500 lamps in the town.

As the load grew various changes were made:
• 1901, the generator was replaced by a 220 volt, 46 kW Fynn generator, supplemented by a steam engine
• 1908, a new turbine (110 hp Boving horizontal) was fitted and the output increased to 80 kW
• 1911, a new powerhouse was constructed and a 230 volt DC Lawrence Scott 100 kW generator installed
• 1920, additional steam driven generators
• 1935, new Boving turbine and Thomson-Houston generator were fitted.

The system was purchased by the Grey Electric Power Board in 1946 and ceased to operate three years later when Reefton became part of national grid. The power house was demolished in 1961.

Heritage Recognition
This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 2 historic place (List no. 5002):
Reefton Power House Foundations: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information (

Rob Aspden, 'Electricity supply in New Zealand – Part 1:Origins – The progression from curiosity to amenity,' IPENZ Proceedings Vol.14:2(E) (February 1988) 

John Martin (ed.), People, Politics & Power Stations, Bridget Williams Books Ltd & ECNZ, 1991

Neil Rennie, Power to the People, Electricity Supply Assn of NZ, 1989


Reefton Pwr Stn ex paper.pdf


Rosstown Road, Reefton

West Coast/Buller

Access Info
Access from Reefton township across the Inangahua River.

Nature of Engineering
Electrical Power Generation and Distribution


Figure 1 in Rob Aspden paper, IPENZ Proceedings Vol 14 (Feb 1988), Issue 2(E). IPENZ.

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The electric light power house, Reefton, West Coast, circa 1904. Image from Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0075

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Lat: -42.121742 Long: 171.870106