Once land reserved for farming sheep, Twizel was established as the base for the Upper
Waitaki Power Development. The scheme was the largest hydro project ever undertaken in New
Zealand, started in 1968 and completed 18 years later.
Today Twizel is a service and tourist town with a residential population of approximately
1200 people. Popular as a holiday town, in summer the population more than trebles. It’s
the closest town to Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Tasman Glacier, and is an excellent cost effective
alternative to staying in the Mount Cook Village. Many of the houses that once serviced the
hydroelectric development are now holiday homes. A 15 minute drive will take you down to Lake
Ruataniwha, an artificial lake formed as part of the Upper Waitaki Scheme.
Twizel's layout is based on a Scandinavian concept where the shopping and sporting
facilities are centrally located with green areas linking streets, providing safe and quick
pedestrian walkways to the town centre. Most of the houses were prefabricated and the whole
town was erected very quickly. A unique quirk to the town’s residences is the prominence of
the meter box, seen at the very centre of houses’ street facing wall, displaying very
clearly the township’s electrical establishment.
At the entrance to the town there is a monument to the town’s hydroelectric heritage with
a section of Penstock (a piece of pipe that delivers water to dam turbines) and a few
examples of the heavy machinery used in the construction of the dams and channels in the