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Highbank Power Scheme

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Highbank/Montalto Hydroelectric Power Scheme is located in Canterbury, in the South Island of New Zealand. The scheme draws from the Rangitata River via a 66 kilometre irrigation race that also waters farms when it’s dry. Irrigation takes priority in summer, so generation volumes vary, but average annual output from the two power stations is around 98 GWh. Below the scheme, a purpose built channel enables migrating salmon to safely access a main braid of the Rakaia River.

At a Glance

LOCATION: RAKAIA RIVER

Commissioned 1982

Max Capacity 29 MW

Annual output 98 GWh

Highbank Power Station was built in 1939-1945, to enhance farm production through irrigation and to generate electricity. The 66 kilometre Rangitata Diversion Race collects water from the Rangitata River. The water is used by farms in summer, when electricity demand is lower and for power generation when there is less need for irrigation. Highbank had a major electrical and ancillary equipment upgrade in 2002. 

Montalto Power Station was commissioned in 1982 and also utilises the Rangitata Diversion Race. 

Generation volume depends on irrigation needs. The scheme is guaranteed water for four months of the year, but typically generates for six to eight months. 

Environment and recreation 

The Scheme feeds water into the Rakaia River as Salmon migrating up the river used to become stranded in the Highbank tailrace. We worked with North Canterbury Fish and Game to solve this long standing problem. We installed a salmon barrier at the end of the tailrace and built a channel for salmon to access a main braid of the Rakaia. This has been successful. 

The Scheme’s Resource Consents expired in 2001. New Consent applications were heard after confirmation of the Rangitata Water Conservation Order. The re-consenting process determined that historic water use had no significant effects and in 2008, the Environment Court confirmed the new consents for a term of 35 years. 

In 2010, we commissioned a new pumping scheme adjacent to the Highbank Power Station, to supply irrigation water to the Rangitata Diversion Race. The Highbank Pumping Station is an important step in supporting the productivity of Canterbury farmers.

Highbank Powerhouse
Highbank Powerhouse

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