The Akaroa Hydro Power Station was opened on the 9th of September 1911 in this purpose built building. It had an output of thirty five kilowatts – fifty horsepower, and was supplied from a reservoir, also purpose built, behind and three hundred and fifteen feet above the station.
After the Lake Coleridge supply reached Akaroa in 1923, the station was used only at peak times to supplement the reasonably tenuous supply.
In 1955 it was closed. Luckily, there was a professional photograph taken at the time and this is shown on the History page.
In 1965 the plant was sold to the Maruia Springs Hotel in the Lewis Pass and it provided electricity there for close on forty years until once again, the demand was greater than the machine’s capacity at which time it was replaced by a larger machine.
When the original machinery became available, local Akaroa identity Lois Holderness learned of this and after much negotiation the equipment was returned to the peninsula in 1997 at a cost of $4,000 and much time and effort by a group of enthusiastic locals.
In the meantime the building, which is owned by local lines company Orion, was reborn as an art gallery and music performance venue. To mark their centenary in 2002, Orion added a third section to the building and did some extensive upgrading work inside and out. The generating equipment was replaced on its original bolts in September 2003 after a complete overhaul and opened by Mrs Clarence (Clarrie) Bryant, widow of the last station operator, and Banks Peninsula mayor Bob Parker.
This project is an exciting and important part of Akaroa’s history. The Orion Powerhouse Gallery is a unique marriage of art and machinery and the equipment has been preserved for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
The building was extensively damaged in the February 2011 earthquake. However, on the 14th March 2011 the equipment was run again, for the first time in fifty five years, in the building specially built for it and sufficient electricity was generated to light the power house lights. Subsequently, Orion carried out extensive repairs and strengthening work and the building is now stronger and safer than it has ever been.
The restoration of the equipment and building were recognised in the 2014 Vero Heritage Awards with a Heritage Restoration Award and again in 2015 with a Christchurch City Council Civic Award.