Book keeps hydro-history alive

20:06, May 28 2014
dam dweller
REPRINTED: A copy of Twizel woman Marion Sheridan's book on its second reprint.

The history of hydro-electricity in the Mackenzie Country will be kept alive with the reprint of a book giving an in-depth view of the area.

The family of late author Marion Sheridan has commissioned a second reprint of Dam Dwellers: End of an Era.

It is a 300-page book on the hydro-power scheme in the Mackenzie, and on the Otematata and Twizel communities. Three hundred copies are expected to be ready for distribution by this weekend.

The re-release is in time for the Twizel Queen's Birthday reunion weekend, celebrating 30 years of Twizel being an official town, and 45 years since the start of the hydro project. Dam Dwellers was first published in 1995, with a reprint in 1996.

Sheridan died of cancer last year. Before she became ill, she was running low on books and was deciding whether to print another run, her daughter, Alhena Vaughan, explained.

The project was shelved until her eight children decided they wanted the book to carry on.


They believe there is nothing that comes close in terms of portraying the topic.

"We didn't want the book to get lost. Lots of people come to the region because of hydro-electricity," Vaughan said.

It will also coincide with the broadcast of an interview Sheridan gave about hydro-electric dams and power schemes, which will be screened as part of the series Making New Zealand on Prime TV this Sunday.

Vaughan said the family has decided to make a $5 donation from each book sold to the South Canterbury Hospice to "recognise them for the outstanding care" they gave to Sheridan before she died.


Organisers of Twizel's 30th birthday celebrations say it will be a "busy but low-key" affair.

Although there is no formal dinner or function planned for the weekend, organiser Shaun Norman said there was still a host of other activities scheduled, including a guided visit of the Ohau power station, a trip on sections of the Alps2Ocean cycle trail and screenings of a film outlining the history of Twizel.

"We don't know whether there will be 200 or 2000 visitors, because we're not having any formalities, this is just a general reunion," Norman said.

"However, it's appropriate we mark the official anniversary of the town. People will have their stories to tell."

The town began as part of the Upper Waitaki hydro scheme, with the official ground-breaking in 1969. After the work finished in the early 1980s, the Government threatened to disestablish the town. The locals, however, campaigned long and hard on it and on June 1, 1984, Twizel was officially recognised as a town.

"The residents fought like hell to keep it. It just seemed crazy to not to make use of all the wonderful infrastructure that was left behind," Norman said.

"When you look at the growth in recent years, it's amazing the Government even considered bulldozing it to the ground."

Norman ran a mountain guiding business for several years.

He and his wife moved from Mt Cook Village to Twizel in 1986, purchasing one of the first of the cheap homes."It cost $10,000, I think. When you look out at the views from my window, you'll be astounded. You have the mountains, the rivers, the wide open spaces. I think it's only recently people are starting to realise the value of the area, and the district in general, which is why there is a lot of concern voiced about land-use changes."

According to the 2013 census, the town has a resident population of about 1500 people.

However, thousands of tourists visit during the summer.

A full rundown of events is available on

The Timaru Herald