Low Level Water Race - Victoria Battery

Masonry dam

A detailed survey and plan of the Masonry dam is warranted. In its absence…….

The dam is a spectacular feature on the Ohinemuri River.

It was solidly built, with no signs of the structure deteriorating.

It is vulnerable to wash out at its wings in very severe rainfall events.

The drain outlet control machinery is at the southern end of the dam, and has been largely destroyed. The condition of the below water component of this feature is unknown, but it is not leaking. The integrity of this "plug" require investigation for the safety of the structure.

The control structure for the entry to the water race is also at the southern end of the dam, and has been damaged, though much of it appears to be covered in soil (to stop water entering the water race). Pieces of the winding gear that controlled the water flow into the race protrude from the ground. The concrete control structure probably still exists below the soil.

The dam is just downstream of the confluence with the Waitete Stream.

The Ohinemuri River Walkway would give easy access to the true left bank (southern end of the dam).

Water race

The water race extends from the control structure at the dam to the site of the turbines at the Victoria Battery. These turbines were located in the middle of the first 100 stampers, which were erected in one line, immediately in front of the long masonry wall.

Sections of the race are still relatively intact and present as a wide ditch, roughly waist deep, and some sections still hold water.

Immediately down stream from the dam, a 200 metre stretch of the water race contains water, fed by a small stream. The race effectively is the stream for a short distance. This makes interpretation here very clear.

Beyond this the race hugs the river bank cliff in a concrete structure where there was no room for a ground channel. It then follows the base of this cliff, parallel with the river, in some rough and uneven ground, susceptible to flooding.

At an abrupt bend in the river, the race makes its way across a "peninsula" of land in a deep cutting, rejoining the river bank on the other side of this "peninsula". This cutting is rubbish filled, and holds some water. The farm track crosses over this cutting.

Beyond this section the race has been largely filled, and smoothed over, though its course can still be easily made out in most places.

The race was crossed by the "rake" close to where the modern McKinney Road ends. No surface evidence of this crossing remains. The race is difficult to see in this area. The Old Tauranga Road used to cross the Ohinemuri at this point. The remains of a bridge pier, and a ford, can be seen in the river.

Down stream of this area the race leaves the riverside for a time, and it becomes a stream for a short section. The Hora Hora pylon route between Waikino and Waihi crossed over this loop in the water race at this point.

A water race for boiler feed water captured water from this small stream, at a dam near where Pukekauri Road crosses it. The race is hard to discern, but survey lines still appearing in the modern cadastral information betray its location. This open race ended at the top of the bank above the main low level water race, and was piped over it to a tank used for watering the locomotives on the "rake".

The race approaches the river again for a short distance before leaving it again. The race can be seen at the base of a low cliff running through the paddocks.

The water race has been maintaining a gradient (fall) of 1 in 2000, so when the race and "rake" line approach each other, the race is several metres higher than the tramway. Just as well, as shortly the water race crosses over the tramway, allowing enough height for the locomotives. This spot is clearly visible, the tramway having entered a major cutting. Shortly beyond this point the water race crosses the Ohinemuri River. The water race in this area is quite intact.

Cliffs beside the river (the tramway requires another cutting to negotiate this section) make it impossible for the water race to remain on the true left bank, so it was flumed across the river on a trestle bridge, and then back across again a little further on. The first flume bridge delivers the race into a deep cutting, but beyond that it gently meanders across the land, almost completely intact, until the second bridge.

The site of the first (upstream) bridge retains remains of a pier in the river, and foundations on the true left bank. On the true right bank the bridge butted directly on to the cliff, delivering the race into the cutting mentioned above.

The true left bank end of the second bridge also serves to take the race over the tramway. Some foundations of this bridge can be seen, as can the area where the race crossed above the tramway.

The race is getting higher above the river all the time, so, because of the relatively gentle slope of the land towards the river, the race again moves away from the river. Immediately beyond the second bridge a section of the race is intact, and then again a section that ends at the start of the "siphon".

The "siphon" was a 5ft diameter pipe that crossed a small gully. The concrete inlet structure (upstream end) still exists, where the open channel delivered water to the pipe. A few metres of pipe also exist. The other end of the pipe, and structure, are either well gone, or buried in the paddock. Beyond this point the water race is hard to identify until it reaches the trees where the paddock ends.

From here to almost opposite the Waikino Railway Station, in the trees, the race is almost complete, and wonderfully preserved. Some short sections of fluming were used here. A water fall falls directly into the water race at one picturesque spot. A concrete overflow and water release structure is largely intact. Sections of intact stonework protect the edge of the race.

Once the race exits the trees, it is hard to follow across the farm land. However it still exists at the Battery as an open, water filled ditch. The concrete inlet structure to the pipe that took the water to the turbine can be seen. Further exploration here would confirm the location of the turbines. Water was discharged to the tailrace, and rejoined the Ohinemuri River.