A glacial start
The Lake Coleridge landscape has been formed over millions of years. Massive glaciers gouged out the land and earthquakes, wind, rain, frost, and even volcanoes, have all been part of the process that helped form the landscape we have today. Lake Coleridge was called Whakamatua by the Maori. The lake area had a plentiful supply of eels and birds. It was an important food gathering stop for trading and raiding parties crossing the Southern Alps seeking precious greenstone(pounamu) from the West Coast
The first Europeans to arrive in the Lake Coleridge area were surveyors. They were mapping out a route through to the gold fields of the West Coast. Runholders taking up vast areas of land, were quick to follow. Pastoralism is still an important land use in the Lake Coleridge Basin. The Lake Coleridge area was named after an early member of the Canterbury Association. He was a descendant of the famous English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Lake Coleridge power station
Created by glacier moraine, there is a difference in height of 170 metres between Lake Coleridge and the Rakaia River. This meant it was an ideal site for the country's first state hydroelectric scheme. Construction workers arrived in 1911 to a wild and bleak landscape. Initially workers were housed in tents and sheds. The winters were harsh which prompted the building of some permanent housing. It was a massive undertaking at the time. It took three years to complete, becoming operational on 25th November 1914. At the time it was a significant engineering feat as it was built on glacial moraine (base shingle). This had never been achieved before. The power station, small by modern standards, still feeds power into the national grid. The Lake Coleridge power station was built to supply electricity to the growing city of Christchurch.
Lake Coleridge village
Later, improved conditions encouraged wives to join their husbands and in 1914 a school began with 15 pupils. Construction was carried on everywhere at the same time and the village swarmed with workmen, up to 400 at a time. Traction engines, horses, carts and motor lorries carried all the gear necessary for building and living.
In 1915 a 'show home' was built in the centre of Coleridge Village as an example of an all electric home. The Electric Cottage, now privately owned, can be seen from the village green.
As construction workers moved on, power station staff and their families replaced them. The village took shape with three main streets, houses, a school and shelter belts. One notable superintendent of the power station (1923 - 1953) was Harry Hart MBE. He loved trees. The park-like setting of the village today is due to Harry Hart. He established an arboretum of hardy pines and conifers which remains unique in New Zealand today.
Living accommodation (tents) for the married staff before houses were built in Lake Coleridge Village
Colin Hyslop's travelling shop which serviced the Lake Coleridge Basin, bringing knitting wool, fabrics & cotton for the women, and sweets, a rare treat for the children.
Power Station 1913
The Electric Cottage