Hydro Housing

Butlers Gorge 1949, with the Clark Dam right and the township top (AOT, PH30/1/6257)

The Hydro-Electric Department (Commission from 1930) began building houses for staff in 1915 in Waddamana, the site of the first power station. Access to the area was difficult, with only a horse-drawn wooden tramway for carrying building supplies to the small village and power scheme.

For the next 25 years, the houses built on construction sites were for the senior staff, but in some places, for example at Ticklebelly Flats, Tarraleah, other married workers were given some timber and allowed to build their own accommodation, so that they could take their wives and families into these remote areas. Single men's quarters were also provided.

In the post-war period the Commission recognised the need to provide a larger number of houses for construction staff in order to attract and retain employees. Later the policy was extended to providing housing for a limited number of married tradesmen with Poatina, for example, having as many as 300 houses at one time. Many of the houses were demountable, and were moved from village to village as each scheme was completed. Other community amenities such as schools, shops, sports facilities and churches were also provided, and a large number of Tasmanians have spent time living in these isolated, sometimes vibrant and multicultural villages over the last ninety years.

Further reading: S Rackham, Hydro construction villages 13, Hobart, 198182; R Lupton Lifeblood, Sydney, 2000; R Garvie, A million horses, Hobart, 1962.

Sarah Rackham