Wairua Falls and Power Station
Omiru / Wairua Falls
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, hot lava flowed here. Now cold water does - but not in the spectacular style it once did. In fact, the Wairua Falls were once called the 'Niagara Falls of New Zealand’.
Located at the end of Wairua Falls Rd, near Titoki, the falls have been impacted by a power station that harnesses the power of the water to create energy for Whangārei residents.
Wairua Falls Power Station, source Northpower.
Before that, the might of the water was used to float logs downstream during the kauri logging days. It is said that the bigger logs would sometimes back up at the top of the falls, and then when it rained they would all go over at once.
These days very little water flows over the waterfall, especially in summer—but come the rains it is a sight to behold.
Image 1: New Zealand Graphic; Josiah Martin 1892, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 3-ALB62-61
Images 2-4 source University of Otago Hocken Collections
Wairua Falls Power Station
The Wairua Falls Power Station is one of New Zealand’s oldest hydro schemes still in operation. It was built by the Dominion Portland Cement Company to supply electricity to its cement works at Portland, and surplus electricity went to the Whangarei Borough Council and the Maungatapere district.
Construction began in March 1914 and the station was completed in September 1916 and featured two generators.
Wairua Power Station, source The Fletcher Trust Archives
The river above the Wairua Falls was dammed and now feeds into a canal that runs for nearly 2.5km along the bank of the Wairua River, where the water drops down to the turbines of the powerhouse.
Prior to the station being automated it provided local employment, and had a small workers’ village a few hundred metres up the road.
Today the Wairua Falls Hydro Station is owned and operated by Northpower Limited. In 2007 the station was upgraded as part of the government’s commitment to renewable energy.
Learn more about the power station.
Visiting the falls
The falls are best viewed after rain. During dry / summer periods very little water flows over them.
There is no official track to the falls base, it is seen from the carpark – and for safety reasons please do not climb over the fence.