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Manapouri Power Station Southland, New Zealand

Manapouri Power Station is New Zealand’s largest hydro-electric power station, situated on the western arm of Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park, in the South Island of New Zealand. The vast machine hall, blasted out of solid granite, sits more than 200 meters underground, connected to the lake’s surface by an elevator. Water from the lake above constantly seeps through the bedrock into the shaft, corroding everything in its path. It’s the deepest elevator and second tallest in the country – and we have just modernized it.

Key facts

Challenges and highlights

  • A modernization 200+m underground
  • Extremely wet conditions
  • Remote location

Schindler solutions

  • Tailored modernization solutions coupled with experienced crew
  • Quarterly extensive maintenance service
  • Schindler Ahead RemoteMonitoring

Project highlights

Without the elevator, a drive of 2km through the long tunnel

An all-out modernization

The owner of Manapouri Power Station, Meridian Energy, approached us after one of the elevator’s hoists ropes had snapped. Until then, the elevator had been transporting the station’s employees for over 40 years. Without it, they were having to drive through a 2km-long tunnel to get to the machine hall.

We proposed a complete modernization of the elevator system to improve its safety and efficiency, as well as ensuring the upgraded elevator was compliant with the latest building standards. This included replacing the whole elevator car, landing doors, machine, and controller with our innovative new technologies and, in the process, futureproofing this geographically remote equipment for many years to come.

After modernization, an elevator ride of 219m with improved safety and efficiency
Machine hall

When the project started, the Installation Manager took our core installation crew down to the elevator pit – all dressed in raincoats! He recalls: "It was just like standing outside in the rain. Needless to say, no standard elevator
equipment is built for this environment!"

To prevent fast corrosion, we applied rust prevention on all possible steel work and built a working platform above the elevator car as a semi-roof. In the machine room, we installed a heat pump and a dehumidifier.

But that was just the hardware part – we also put together our best team: Schindler Project Manager Fabio Fadigas leads a dedicated team of ten averaging 20 years of experience. Before he became the branch manager of Wellington, he has led large projects in South America and Asia for over 12 years.

The humid shaft environment

A constant battle against corrosion

Our first challenge was to design new hoist ropes that could withstand constant contact with water. Craig Player, an experienced Schindler Engineering Manager, was responsible for this part of the modernization. Craig’s team tailored the rope solution, accounting for an array of specifications including rope length, tension, water resistance, rust prevention, and life cycle. They were supported by Schindler Global Large Projects and Brugg Lifting, a company specializing in elevator ropes. The team tested a range of options to ensure they installed the most water-resistant and resilient rope for this environment.

Look out far, look in deep

There’s no road to access the power station. To get there, our team had to take a plane from Wellington to Queenstown, then drive for three hours, and finally take a ferry or a 50-min barge ride to get to the other side of the lake, where the dam is located. The trip alone takes two days, so our team would spend two weeks at a time at the station, bringing much of their kit to cover any unforeseen challenges.

The unique conditions experienced in the underground shaft also brought its fair share of challenges. Snow, rain, water, mosquitoes were all part of daily life on-site. Special hoisting methods were also designed. For instance, to install the elevator hoist motor, we hired a special truck with a huge crane on the back, which then lifted the motor and lowered it slowly down the 219m descent to the machine hall.

Once the installation phase was over and our experienced crew had left the station, it was time to hand over to Schindler Ahead to take ongoing care of the equipment.

A mockup of equipment health check report by Schindler Ahead RemoteMonitoring
Manpouri Power Station, Photo courtesy of Meridian Energy Ltd.

Schindler Ahead is an intelligent closed-loop platform that connects service technicians and property stakeholders to the Internet of Elevators and Escalators (IoEE). Among its many tools, Schindler Ahead RemoteMonitoring enables predictive maintenance. By installing the IoEE cube in the controller on top of the car at Manapouri, our maintenance team in Wellington will be able to monitor the operation and status of the elevator remotely. If there are any signs of malfunction, they will be able to run basic diagnostics through the cube and coordinate with Meridian’s service team to solve the problem immediately.

Given the much higher wear and tear caused by the unusual environment, our service technicians carry out an extensive maintenance service every quarter. Stefan Kovacs, a Schindler veteran with over 36 years of experience, leads the service team for the site. 

"We go over everything, lubricate all the necessary components and work to combine their visits with possible repairs and improvements," he says. "It takes two of our technicians two days to complete the whole process."

Our teams completed the elevator upgrade in less than a year. Now, the 16 staff members at Manapouri Power Station are able to enjoy the convenience and security of a new state of the art elevator.

It’s a uniquely challenging and fascinating project. As Fabio puts it: "If it wasn't for the loyal people who've been working hard for us for a long time, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off."

Replacing New Zealand’s second highest elevator was not a straightforward task. The elevator shaft is not a normal working environment as there is constant water coming through the rocks and out into the elevator shaft. The elevator is vital to our daily operation: Schindler customized the entire solution and made its modernization a success.

Blair Falconer, Site Manager, Manapouri Hydro Power Station

Manpouri Power Station, Photo courtesy of Meridian Energy Ltd.

Manapōuri Power Station

Awe-inspiring underground modernization for the deepest elevator and second tallest in the country, despite remoteness, humidity, and other forces of nature.