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A Pupu Perambulation

2020 Caravan Diaries

overcast 20 °C

The official name is Te Waikoropupū Springs but everyone, including the various road signs, calls them the Pupu Springs. They are just outside Takaka to the west. DOC says they are the largest cold water springs in the southern hemisphere, with some of the cleanest water measured in New Zealand. They are the subject of a fairly long-standing court battle, over a proposal to take water for irrigation for local dairy farming, which would involve consequential pollution to the springs. I go back for another look - last time I was here, there were quite a few people about but today I have the place to myself. There is a convenient board walk through the bush, running alongside one of the streams that feeds the pool.


The water is pretty clear - there is a claim that underwater visibility is 63 metres, and there's quite a lot to see under the surface (an "aquatic garden of Eden" is how one author has described the place). This is the source of the water used for Dancing Sands gin, made locally: so called because the Dancing Sands vent apparently causes sand to dance in the upward flow of the water. I think you have to be a diver to see it - all I can see is the rippling as the water emerges at the surface.


The surrounding bush (and lack of people) make for a very peaceful environment - thankfully, DOC so far have resisted pressures to allow commercialisation, like glass bottomed boats or kayaking.


A bit further up the road, the Pupu Hydro Power system has been operating for nearly 100 years (with a gap in the 1980's when vandalism caused a hiatus). It is an ingenious scheme, taking advantage of water races originally built for a gold mining operation. Apparently, there were nearly 4 km when first built, but only about half that length is still in use. How it works is that water is collected high up in the hills, by building a weir in Campbell Creek, and diverted along the water races to a point above the power station. There it is piped down to the station where it runs turbines and generates about 1 GWh a year (I don't know how much that actually is). Here's a useful map to show the general scheme:


I spend an afternoon wandering through - there is a choice at the beginning - left or right. I pick right because it is shorter and soon regret it, as the path is tough going.


It turns out I make the right choice as going left would have involved a long tramp up a gravel road with little to see. I at least get to see traces of the former scheme, such as this disused pipe hidden in the undergrowth (and a much less hidden one).


After about 30 minutes I get to the head pond - it is from here that the water is piped 105 metres down to the station. I think the brush-thing is actually a form of filter, to stop bits of foliage getting into the pipe.


The water race runs to here from Campbell Creek, about 1.5 km away - there's a board walk or well-formed path the whole way, but at times the walkway gets very narrow with a fairly long drop off to the side. I'm not good with heights and there are points at which I wonder what I am doing.


The weir itself is not exactly overwhelming, and has broken away over the years. The diversion of the creek into the water race is probably much less effective as a result - it happens under the cover of bush.


At one point on the gravel road, I have to stop and take in the view.


Down at the station, there's not much to see - a plain corrugated iron shed, and the pipe running from above, although at least there's a window allowing me to see what is inside the shed.


Posted by NZBarry 21:11 Archived in New Zealand

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