Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex

Item details

Name of item: Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex
Other name/s: Power Station and Race; Lavertys Gap Power Station.; Mullumbimby Power Station and Substation
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Utilities - Electricity
Category: Electricity Generator/Power Station - hydro-electric
Location: Lat: -28.5740835829891 Long: 153.45002176
Primary address: Wilsons Creek Road, Mullumbimby, NSW 2482
Parish: Mullumbimby
County: Rous
Local govt. area: Byron
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Tweed Byron
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT 11 DP1107625
PART LOT21 DP1134217
LOT1 DP314094
LOT1 DP314096
LOT2 DP314096
PART LOT1 DP577722
PART LOT13 DP581145
PART LOT14 DP605947
PART LOT18 DP633243
PART LOT2 DP635195

Boundary:

Hydro-electric Power Station: The area surrounding the 1920s building defined by the security fence installed in 2008. Lavertys Gap Weir: The weir and associated elements on the bank. Water Race: Concrete water race running from Lavertys Gap Weir to above the water treatment plant. Where the race is not in a separate lot, the curtilage extends for a distance of 50cm from the race and includes the subterranean component of the race. Easement for Pipeline and Tunnel: Easement for pipeline and tunnel in which the underground pipeline is located that runs through Lot 21 DP 1134217, Lot 13 DP 581145, Lot 18 DP 633243.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Wilsons Creek RoadMullumbimbyByronMullumbimbyRousPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
 Private 
 Private 
Byron Shire CouncilLocal Government 
Essential EnergyPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The Mullumbimby Power Station Complex, incorporating Hydro-electric Power Station, Lavertys Gap Weir and associated water races, are of state heritage significance as a complete system associated with a smaller provincial hydro-electric power station built by Mullumbimby Municipal Council as part of the provision and supply of electricity from the mid-1920s. It was the fourth hydro-electric power station built in NSW for the large scale provision of electricity and the fifth constructed on the mainland. Associated with the early development of hydro-electricity in NSW it represents the transition from local councils and private companies to county councils in the provision and supply of electricity to the community.

The Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station complex is a fine example of a 1920s provincial hydro-electric power generating complex complete with a significant collection of associated features and machinery. Its power house, machinery, steel pipes, annexes, cooling tower, valves, race and weir are an intact collection and a physical example of hydro-electric development and technical innovation in the Byron area in the since 1924.

The size and intactness of the Mullumbimby Power Station and associated items, the dominant form and fabric of the power house and its imposing presence within a natural setting afford the complex considerable aesthetic and technical value. The surviving collection of hydro and combustion engines including two GEC Pelton wheel turbines, a Boving & Co. Ltd engine, Ruston Lincoln engine, a General Electric Co. Ltd generator, and four Mirrlees diesel engines, as well as the overhead travelling cranes, are a rare industrial collection surviving within their original context. Considered to be particularly rare, are the Pelton turbines which are two of only a few examples surviving in their original context worldwide (Governtment Architects Office, 2010).

The Hydro-electric station contains a catalogued Movable Heritage Collection that relates to its industrial use including tools and machinery elements. These form an important part of the intact collection at this site.
Date significance updated: 30 Nov 12
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: William Corin
Construction years: 1924-1926
Physical description: Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station is located amongst the hills outside Mullumbimby. The site of the power house has been partially cut into the hillside with a concrete retaining wall built along the northwest side. This wall, which has a height of almost 2 metres, also serves as a footing. A second retaining wall is located behind the building site to the southwest.

The power house is a timber framed structure clad with corrugated iron. Its has a double gable end roof with static air vents fitted along the ridge line. The building measures approximately 34 metres in length by 18 metres in width and is oriented northwest to southeast. Its main entrance faces northeast. Original louver windows of various sizes remain along the length of the building. A large roller door at the east end of the north elevation allows access to an interior mezzanine floor. Inside the power house the walls are partially clad with timber. A steel frame supports an 8 Tonne travelling crane used to move heaver items.

A unique collection of hydro and combustion engines are located inside the power station. They include two hydro-electric sets, both identical GEC Pelton wheel turbines of 144 KW capacity with Boving governor controls. The attached alternators are GEC, three phase with 650 volts output at 600rpm. The maker's plate on one of the turbines reads 'Boving & Co. Ltd. London'. The writing on the older engine from 1926 reads 'Ruston Lincoln England'. The generator's makers plate reads 'The General Electric Co. Ltd. Witton England'.

The four Mirrlees diesel engines are:
A 7 cylinder engine with GEC alternator, 937 KVA, 11500 Volt output at 375rpm;
A 5 cylinder engine with GEC alternator, 344 KVA, 660 Volt output at 375rpm;
A 7 cylinder engine with Schorch alternator, 625 KVA, 400 volt output at 375rpm; and
An 8 cylinder engine with brush alternator, 1150 KVA, 6600 volt output at 375 rpm.

All generators are three phase. In total there are three diesel engines and the old Ruston Lincoln engine, a 4 cylinder engine plus the two hydro-energy sets, comprising of turbine and generator.

Some features associated with the power generating equipment, including exhausts and a smaller cooling tower, are located on the south side of the power house; two smaller annexes are attached to the original building. A short distance southwards are the footings of two cooling towers that have been removed.

Descending down the adjacent hill, the end of the pipeline is located at the southwest corner of the powerhouse. This pipeline conveyed water to power the turbines from a weir built at Lavertys Gap above the Power House. The storage capacity of the weir is 30 million gallons (Brokenshire 1988:75). It has a height of 7m with a crest of 45.72m (GAO 2010). Water runs away from the weir through a race, originally in earth fill that is now concrete and measures 440m (GAO 2010). After flowing through a 106.7m tunnel driven through the saddle of the hill the water runs to a holding race above the water treatment plant. Water is diverted from this race to supply drinking water to Mullumbimby as well as flowing to the power station, at the foot of Lavertys Gap, through a cast iron pipeline, 509m in length, that was originally made in woodstave.

The Hydro-electric station contains a catalogued Movable Heritage Collection that relates to its industrial use. The following catalogued items are considered an important part of the significance of the site:

1. Three phase grinder.
2. Block and Tackle.
3. Prop for pipe cutting.
4. Timber block used for wad punching.
5. Handle for gate valve.
6. Shaft for gate valve.
7. Timber work benches.
8. Handle to roll 44 gallon drums.
9. Pikes for standing poles.
10. Ten ton block and tackle.
11. 44 gallon drum roller.
12. Hooks to store chains, wire ropes & shackles.
13. Transformer for lead light.
14. Steel bar to turn the engine over.
15. Pirometers used for reading exhaust gas temperature.
16. Set of spanners.
17. Set of tools for the turbine.
18. Buckets for the turbine.
19. Air tank.
20. Stand for the air tank.
21. Transformers for the hydro units.
22. Relay tester.
23. Pallets of spare parts.
24. Timber brake for the fly wheels.
25. Control panel for the engines.
26. Signs.
27. Electric jug.
28. Mezzanine floor all items to be kept on shelves.
29. Two lights
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The power plant shows signs of moderate deterioration and is in the need of some maintenance and repair. The asbestos sheeting on the roof has recently been replaced with galvanised corrugated iron as have the walls. The water race is in good condition, showing signs of maintenance and repair. In some sections the land at the edges of the race has been sandbagged to prevent erosion.
Date condition updated:30 Nov 12
Modifications and dates: Switching gear and controls appears to date from the 1950s or 1960s.
A recent substation has been installed to the north.
Three large sheds have also been built in recent years.
The original substation has been removed from the site along with two cooling towers, two sheds and a weatherboard cottage.

History

Historical notes: As early as 1909 government interest in securing a local water supply saw an area set aside on the main arm of the Brunswick River for a future water supply. Credit for the eventual location of the complex can be partially attributed to Councillor W.E. Selwood who advised Council that by erecting a weir across Wilsons Creek and running the water initially through an open cut drain and then through tunnels the water could operate hydro-electric units.

Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station was an undertaking by Mullumbimby Municipal Council. The initial station was designed by consulting engineer Mr William Corin, who was commissioned by the local council in September 1923 to prepare and commence the scheme. The site of the power house was surveyed in December 1924.

William Corin became Chief Electrical Engineer in the Department of Public Works in 1908, and consultant to the Department of Mines, New South Wales where he reported on the Snowy River hydro-electric scheme. After 1923 he became a private consultant to various governments. His work is commemorated by the Corin Dam in the ACT.

By 1924 construction of the weir at Lavertys Gap on Wilsons Creek was underway in preparation for the Power Station. The weir is approximately 7m high with a crest of 45.72m (ERM 2008:10). With a total storage of almost 140ML, the weir provides just over 25 million litres storage. The weir is also used as the town's water supply (the plan to combine the provision of water with generation of hydro-electric power had been agreed upon by the community in 1922).

The tunnel through Lavertys Gap was completed on the 1 December 1925. The water dammed at the weir came through the 350 foot (106.7m) tunnel in Laverty's Gap, and down a woodstave pipe (approximately 509m long and now cast iron) into the power house to the turbines (Brokenshire 1988:75). The race, which was originally in earth fill, was 1450 feet (440m) and has since been replaced with concrete (Tanner et.al. 1993).

In December 1925 the scheme was turned on for the first time lighting the town of Mullumbimby. The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time that "excitement prevailed in Mullumbimby on Wednesday night, when the electric light from the Mullumbimby hydro-electric scheme was switched on for the first time" (SMH 26 December 1925). Mullumbimby Municipal Council commenced the official generation and supply of hydro-electricity from Wilsons Creek on 6 March 1926 (Tanner et. al. 1993:23; Brokenshire 1988:76-77).

At is official opening in 1926 the Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station became the fifth large scale hydro-electric power station on the mainland, the earlier ones were: Gara, NSW (1895); Thargomindah, QLD (1898); Dorrigo, NSW (1922) and Nymboida, NSW (1924).

Having its own power supply would be a major source of income to the Municipal Council, which had taken out loans of over 25000 pounds (Brokenshire 1988:75; Tanner et.al. 1993). Fed from the same source, Byron Bay was lit on the 12 June and Bangalow on the 3 July 1926 (Brokenshire 1988:76-77).

In the early days when the hydros were operating successfully, they were left unattended for long periods of time. When one of the staff come on duty, it was necessary to check the water level at the weir which meant a long walk up hill, check the water level and walk back to the power house. Later an electronic gauge was installed which, at a glance, showed the water level at the weir (Ray Musgrave Pers. Comm.)

Soon after its commencement, a 4 cylinder crude oil engine was added to the plant in 1926. The engine was a Ruston Lincoln (referred to as Rustin and Hornsby by Tanner et.al. (1993)). The initial capacity of the power station plant was soon insufficient. In 1934 the generating capacity was supported by a Mirrlees high speed, eight cylinder engine of 330 hp. Four years later an interconnection with the Clarence River County Council grid was achieved. A 33,000 volt transmission line from Lismore Power Station to Dunoon was extended to interconnect with the Mullumbimby Power Station at Lavertys Gap. This interconnection became effective on the 1 May 1938 (Clarence River County Council Annual Report 1939:2). Further additions to the plant were again necessary in 1941(No.5 diesel unit), 1949 (No.6 diesel unit) and 1952 (No.7 diesel unit) (Brokenshire 1988:76-77). Altogether the installed capacity at the power plant in c.1958 was 3154 kw with an output of 14 million kwh per annum (Brokenshire 1988:76-77).

In 1990 the Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station was decommissioned. The original two 225 hp Pelton turbines, directly coupled to 140 kilowatt GEC alternators, are still housed in the power station (Brokenshire 1988:78; Tanner 1993:24). The 200hp Ruston Lincoln, the 333 hp Mirrlees Ricardo and 495 hp Mirrlees Ricardo engines are also still housed in the power station.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station, Lavertys Gap Weir and Water Races meet this criterion at State level as the fourth hydro-electric power station complex to be built in NSW and the fifth in mainland Australia. In addition, it is significant for its association with the development of hydro-electric power generation in New South Wales.

It meets this criterion at a local level as part of a group of power stations and associated items in the Northern Rivers region. Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station has played an important role in the development of electricity generation and supply to the local area since the mid 1920s up to its decommissioning in 1989.

Originally built by Mullumbimby Municipal Council, its ownership and management by the Council provided income to the municipality, contributing to the economic development of the region. The Power Station is also of local historical significance as it represents the transition from Local Councils and private companies to County Councils in the provision and supply of electricity to the community.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
It does not meet this criterion.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It meets this criterion at State level due to its largely preserved appearance, its size, dominant form and its imposing presence as a steel structure within a natural setting.

The preservation of associated features including its machinery, steel pipes, valves, race and weir also afford this historic site considerable aesthetic significance.

The hydro-electric complex is aesthetically distinctive as an industrial display of creative and technical innovation. The power house, its associated structures and machinery are of technical interest.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It meets this criterion at local level due to its importance to the Byron Shire community and the regional community as part of an important 1920s endeavour to make the north coast self-sufficient on hydro-electric power.

The Power Station has special associations for former workers and is appreciated for its contribution to the economic development of the region through the provision of electricity to local industries, businesses and residences. This social significance is recognised through listing as a heritage item on the National Trust Register (NSW) and the Byron Local Environmental Plan.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
It meets this criterion at State level as a reference of an early twentieth century hydro-electric complex.

Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station has a rare ability to demonstrate once common work practices in the early to mid 20th century, which are now almost entirely discontinued through changes in technology and workplace health and safety requirements.

The Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station and its associated machinery, steel pipes, valves, race and weir are an intact collection of one of the earliest hydro-electric power stations in NSW. This early technology has the potential to yield information on the early development of hydro-electric schemes in Australia. The Power Station has limited historical archaeological potential.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
It meets this criterion at State level as the fourth hydro-electric power station in NSW. Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station is unique because of the early combination of hydro-electric and diesel powered technology. The size and intactness of the Power Station and associated items also afford the industrial complex rarity value.

The two GEC Pelton wheel turbines, a Boving & Co. Ltd engine, Ruston Lincoln engine, a General Electric Co. Ltd generator, and four Mirrlees diesel engines, as well as the overhead travelling cranes, are a rare industrial collection surviving within their original context.

In particular, the GEC Pelton wheel turbines are two of only a few known examples surviving in their original context worldwide.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
It meets this criterion at State level as the Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex is a fine representative example of a mid 1920s provincial hydro-electric power generating complex.

It is representative of one the earliest hydro-electric power stations in Australia and the associated items demonstrate the development of provincial power schemes by Local Councils in NSW in the 1920s.
Integrity/Intactness: The Mullumbimby Power House complex is in excellent condition. Minor modernisation has generally occurred to provide for the increased demand. The retention of machinery in its original contexts adds strength to the integrity of this site.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

This item is listed as an item of environmental significance in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP). A Conservation Management Plan has been prepared for this building and its machinery but no detailed proposals for its adaptive re-use and interpretation are presented. While retention of the machines in their original site context is preferable, this may not be practical in the long term. Options for the machinery should be discussed in any future management documents. Essential Energy should consider an appropriate repository in which to house and display obsolete significant machinery and equipment. The current standard of care and maintenance of this building should be continued and further modification to or loss of original fabric should be avoided.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site specific exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977

ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2) TO GRANT SITE SPECIFIC EXEMPTIONS FROM APPROVAL

Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex

SHR No. 1926

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule "C" by the owner, mortgagee or lessee of the land described in Schedule "B" on the item described in Schedule "A".




The Hon Rob Stokes MP
Minister for Heritage


Sydney, Day of 2014


SCHEDULE "A"

The item known as Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Complex, situated on the land described in Schedule "B".
SCHEDULE "B"

All those pieces or parcels of land known as Part Lot 11, DP 1107625; Part Lot 21, DP 1134217; Part Lot 18, DP 633243; Part Lot 13, DP 581145; Part Lot 1, DP 577722; Lot 1, DP 314094; Lot 1, DP 314096; Lot 2, DP 314096; Part Lot 2, DP 635195; Part Lot 14, DP 605947; in the Parish of Mullumbimby, County of Rous shown on the plan catalogued HC 2597 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

SCHEDULE "C"

1.Works to existing water supply infrastructure for operational requirements, maintenance and repair that do not involve any excavation or impacts on archaeological resources and relics. Emergency works to restore existing infrastructure assets to protect public health, protect property and/or protect the environment where these emergency works involve no greater soil or vegetation disturbance than necessary.

2.Works by Essential Energy on Essential Energy assets to operate, repair and maintain existing electricity infrastructure - being electricity power lines or associated equipment or electricity structures that form part of a transmission and distribution system - for operational requirements, maintenance and repair that do not involve any excavation or impacts on archaeological resources and relics. Emergency works to restore existing infrastructure assets to protect public health, protect property and/or protect the environment where these emergency works involve no greater soil or vegetation disturbance than necessary.

3.Mowing, pruning and removal of vegetation adjacent to water race where such removal does not impact significant or endangered ecological communities or species and is necessary for the protection/maintenance of the race.

4.Any works in the land above the underground water race and pipeline that does not impact the race or pipeline.

5.Testing of land for contaminated site remediation where such testing does not involve impacts on archaeological relics or resources.

6.Repair and maintenance of existing underground services and utilities infrastructure where these works utilise or apply to existing service trenches and/or pre-existing structures.

7.Works identified in Appendix A of the 'Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station Conservation Management Plan' dated February 2010, prepared by the Government Architects Office.
Jun 27 2014

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0192627 Jun 14 582419

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Northern Rivers Electricity Heritage and Conservation Register1993 Howard Tanner and Associates, McDonald Brickman Corkhill, Godden Mackay Logan Pt  No
Country Energy S170 Register2008311007Stedinger Associates Pty LtdLouise and Gerald Steding No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1939Clarnece River County Council Annual Report
Written 1925Sydney Morning Herald 26 December
WrittenEnvironmental Resources Management2008Lismore to Mullumbimby Electricty Network Upgrade - Environmental Assessment
WrittenGovernment Architects Office2010Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station CMP Mullumbimby Hydro-electric Power Station CMP View detail
WrittenJim Brokenshire1988The Brunswick. Another River and its People

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5060490
File number: 12/19118


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