The waters of Fairy Springs are residual leakages from Lake Waikaremoana’s lake bed, which percolate through the bedrock and feed the upper reaches of the Waikaretaheke River. Gin clear.
1.6 km south of Onepoto, turn left into the unsealed road signposted to Kaitawa. This leads 800 metres down to the power station. The track starts over the footbridge next to the information panel.
The track is marked with orange triangles.
At first, the track skits the northern edge of the lake, gently undulating through forest (20 minutes). At the junction by the grass clearing at the head of the lake, the track leads left to the Green Lake/Fairy Springs, This unbelievably clear lake has the clarity of gin, with every detail visible on the bottom (20 minute loop).
Back at the stile, cross the grass clearing and follow the gravel road around the southern side of the lake to the carpark (20 minutes).
The Waikaremoana Power Scheme consists of 3 stations, which work as a trio, but can each operate independently. Together they can produce 24 MW of power and contribute 470 GWh per year to the national grid. All stations take advantage of the fact that Lake Waikaremoana is over 600 metres above sea level and thus stores a huge amount of gravitational potential energy, which can be harnessed by feeding the descending water through turbines and generators.
Kaitawa is the uppermost of the three power stations. Work started in the early 1930s but delays with the delivery of machinery and the earth dam at the outlet of Lake Waikaremoana not consolidating adequately, meant that the station was not fully operational until 1948.
In 1946 twin tunnels were driven through the natural dam, but between 1948-55, the leaks in the natural dam reduced the outflow to one third the desired output. Divers found the underground leaks and filled them with rock and gravel from barges. A concrete ‘blanket’ was poured over the lake bed at Te Wharawhara Bay. Two tunnels were driven through the slip barrier.
From here, water passes through shafts to the headgates and then the intakes. Two penstocks carry water to the power station and lake Kaitawa, which forms the headpond for the power station at Tuai. Lake Whakamarino at Tuai forms the headpond for Piripaua further down the valley.
Kaitawa (482 metres above sea level (asl)) produces 32 MW of power with two vertically mounted Francis turbines and two generators. Tuai (274 m asl), was completed in 1929 and later expanded in 1939. It produces 52 MW through three horizontal turbines. Piripaua (163 m asl) became operational in 1943 and produces 40 MW with two vertical generators.
North Island ▷ Out East ▷ Lake Waikaremoana
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍