Benmore Power Station

Engineering Work (eg road, bridge, sawmill, dam)


The Benmore Power Station at Otematata, South Island, is the power source for the high voltage direct current link to the North Island. Construction on the Benmore project began in 1958 and the power station was opened in 1965 to coincide with the completion of the Benmore to Haywards H.V.D.C. link.

Benmore Dam is the largest earth dam in New Zealand and, at 118 metres to crest, is also the highest. Impounded behind it is New Zealand’s largest man-made lake which provides various recreation facilities. In front of the dam the massive pre-stressed concrete penstocks are a unique feature.

Designed and constructed by New Zealand's Ministry of Works and the Electricity Department, the power station contributes about 2200 GWh per year to New Zealand's national grid.

The development and construction of the Benmore Power Station, and the link to Haywards in the North Island, was of national interest and featured in several documentaries including, Selwyn Toogood's 1964 film These New Zealanders (below) and later Inter-Island Power (1966) (

Meridian Energy Ltd. ( owns the Bemore Power Station and other facilities around New Zealand.

Heritage recognition
IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project

This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this power station as part of the development of the nation. A photo of the plaque is attached.


Butcher, B. J., 'Concrete for Benmore Power Project,' New Zealand Engineering, Vol.20:1, 1965 (see attachment below)

Hitchcock, H. C., 'Main generating and electrical equipment for Benmore Power Station,' New Zealand Engineering, Vol.20:1, 1965 (see attachment below)

Jones, O. T., 'Design of Benmore Earth Dam,' New Zealand Engineering, Vol.20:1, 1965 (see attachment below)

Story, T., 'Earthmoving for Benmore Earth Dam,' New Zealand Engineering, Vol.20:1, 1965 (see attachment below)


Butcher, NZE, Jan 1965, pp.24-28 (pdf, 340 KB).pdf
Hitchcock, NZE, Jan 1965, pp.3-12 (pdf, 660 KB).pdf
Jones, NZE, Jan 1965, pp.13-23 (pdf, 680 KB).pdf
Story, NZE, Jan 1965, pp.29-35 (pdf, 615 KB).pdf


On the Waitaki River near Otematata in the South Island

South Canterbury

Access Info
Proceed up the Waitaki valley from Oamaru on State Highway 83, then right opposite Otematata. There is well signposted lookout that provides good view of the facilities.

Nature of Engineering
Electrical Power Generation and Distribution


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Benmore penstock, July 2004. Photograph courtesy of R. Aspden

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Benmore Dam, 15 March 1969. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs, ID: WA-68479-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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Lat: -44.563448 Long: 170.193661