New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Centenary of Electricity

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New Zealand's beginning as a nation was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Little more than 25 years later, the first hydro-electric power was being generated by crude installations in the goldfields of the South Island.

Issue information

In 1888, one of these gold mining centres, now the town of Reefton, became the first community in the Southern Hemisphere to switch on to municipal hydro-electric power.  This was only six years behind similar developments in the United States of America.

After Reefton, other pockets of private and commercial electricity generation were established throughout the country.  In 1904, a detailed survey of New Zealand's power potential described the country as "the powerhouse of the Orient".

Product Listing for Centenary of Electricity

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Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Geothermal' gummed stamp.

New Zealand's active thermal area in the centre of the North Island is the result of two of the earth's crustal plates grinding together to produce earthquakes, volcanic activity, geysers, bubbling mud pools - and geothermal steam. Bores driven deeply into the earth release the pressure, the water boils and high pressure steam and water roar up the pipes. Steam and water are divided at the boreheads, with the steam piped off to spin the turbines at the generating plant. The hot water, cooling as it goes, flows into the nearby streams and river.

Single Stamp

Single 60c 'Thermal' gummed stamp.

The term 'thermal' applied to electricity generating stations, means that heat is used in some form to generate electricity. In hydro plants, water drives the turbine generators. Conventional thermal stations burn fuels such as coal, oil or gas to produce steam to turn the turbine generators. In geothermal plants the steam comes from underground bores.

Single Stamp

Single 70c 'Gas' gummed stamp.

Compared with other types of thermal plants, gas turbines are relatively cheap and quick to build but are expensive to operate. Their main role in New Zealand is to produce electricity for short periods to cope with daily system peaks. Gas turbine plants can be run non-stop in cases of sustained low lake levels or when another plant is unavailable. Gas turbines comprise gas generators, based on jet engine design, power turbines and electric generators assembled in one line.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Hydro' gummed stamp.

New Zealand's geological formation and climate were its good fortune when it came to providing electric power. Production of hydro-electricity is relatively simple. Water trapped behind a dam flows with great force down penstocks to spin the blades of a turbine. The turbine drives the generator which produces electricity.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $2.67

Technical information

Date of issue: 13 January 1988
Designer: Fay McAlpine, Wellington
Printers: Leigh-Mardon, Australia
Stamp size: 40mm x 28mm
Sheet size:  100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge: 14 x 14.3
Paper type: Unwatermarked
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 13 January 1989.