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Benmore hydro station

Benmore is a hydro station located in the Waitaki Valley. It lies on New Zealand’s largest manmade lake – Lake Benmore – and is New Zealand’s largest earth dam.

Benmore has six 93-megawatt generating units and a generation output of up to 552 megawatts. This makes it the country’s second-largest hydro station after Manapōuri, generating enough electricity for about 298,000 average New Zealand homes.

Building Benmore

Construction started in 1958. The lake was filled in December 1964 and the first power was produced in January 1965. 

Initially Benmore was going to be a concrete dam like Waitaki, but advances in dam-building techniques meant Benmore was able to be built using earth.

At the time of construction, the dam was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the project was the biggest of its kind in New Zealand.

Building a dam and a community

n October 1957 the plan to build the Benmore power station was approved in conjunction with that of the Cook Strait power cable. Work began to build a camp in which the workers would live.

The first group of about 150 men arrived in February 1958 to begin work on the dam. In August 1958 the first 11 shopkeepers arrived to open stores to cater for the growing population.

The workforce consisted of Ministry of Works employees and contractors.

By the end of the year there were more than 450 workers living and working in Otematata. This was the start of significant growth in the small town.

Key dates

  • 1958 – Construction begins
  • 1965 – Benmore fully operational

Meridian Power Up community fund

Our Power Up community fund supports local projects in the areas where we have generation assets. It’s one of the ways in which we recognise the importance of local communities to our operations.

If you’re based near a Meridian hydro station or wind farm and have a project you’d like help with, apply now!

Power Up community fund

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