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[OC] Mackenzie Basin and part of the Upper Waitaki power scheme [720×540]

Unveiling the Breathtaking Otago Highlands: Mackenzie Basin and the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme

Located in the heart of the Otago Highlands, Mackenzie Basin is a stunning region characterized by its pristine wilderness, diverse fauna, and picturesque landscapes. This unspoiled natural wonder is a key part of the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme, a prominent hydroelectric power generation facility in New Zealand.

Geological Formation

The Mackenzie Basin, situated approximately 240 kilometers northwest of Dunedin, is a caldera that formed as a result of massive volcanic activity over 23,000 years ago. The caldera’s depth and diameter of about 30 kilometers creates a unique geological environment, with the landscape shaped by thousands of years of glaciation, erosion, and sedimentation.

Fauna and Flora

The basin’s diverse fauna is a significant draw for nature enthusiasts. Home to rare and endangered species such as the blue duck, New Zealand merganser, and the kiwi, Mackenzie Basin provides a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The area is also renowned for its exceptional fly-fishing, with numerous rivers and streams stocked with trout.

The region’s flora is characterized by native vegetation, including the iconic Mackenzie Basin daisy (Celmisia macroptera) and tussock grasslands. These grasslands have been preserved to maintain their ecological integrity, ensuring the region’s rich biodiversity remains intact.

Upper Waitaki Power Scheme

A significant component of the Mackenzie Basin is the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme, a vital part of New Zealand’s energy infrastructure. The power scheme consists of five large hydroelectric power stations, including Benmore Dam, Aviemore Dam, Roxburgh Dam, Clyde Dam, and Waitomo Dam.

These power stations harness the energy of the Waitaki River, converting it into electricity for use in major cities, including Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. The scheme is not only an economic driver for New Zealand but also an environmental success story, with careful planning and operation minimizing its ecological impact on the basin.

Tourism and Recreation

Mackenzie Basin and the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme are highly popular tourist destinations, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Visitors can engage in a range of activities, including:

  • Hiking: The basin features numerous hiking trails, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the glacial carved valleys.
  • Camping: Establishments in the region cater to campers, with many spots offering picturesque views of the surrounding hills and rivers.
  • Fishing: Try your hand at catch-and-release fishing for trout and other fish species in the basin’s pristine waters.
  • Photography: Capture the breathtaking vistas and unique geological formations of the Mackenzie Basin, an photographers’ paradise.


The Mackenzie Basin and the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme are a true gem of the Otago Highlands. This remarkable region not only provides a sustainable source of clean energy but also showcases the natural beauty of New Zealand. Visitors can experience the wilderness, flora, and fauna of Mackenzie Basin, while also acknowledging the importance of responsible energy development.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, angler, or photographer, Mackenzie Basin is a must-visit destination for those seeking an unforgettable adventure in one of New Zealand’s most unspoiled natural environments.

Download image [OC] Mackenzie Basin and part of the Upper Waitaki power scheme [720×540]

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