Walka Water Works
Prior to 1887 residents of West Maitland, Morpeth and Newcastle had to rely on creeks, tanks and bores for their domestic water supply.
Planning for a domestic water supply began in 1877 when notable English engineer, Sir William Clark, was commissioned by the New South Wales Government to design a water supply scheme to serve Maitland and Newcastle. His extensive report, submitted in November 1877, proposed a a plan to supply water to the towns of Maitland, Morpeth, Newcastle and the mining townships at an estimated cost of 170,000 pounds which included 9,000 tons (8164 tonnes) of cast iron piping and proposed beam engines capable of supplying up to 1,400,000 gallons per day if demand required continuous working.
Construction began in 1883, when a brick tunnel was built 9 metres below ground level between the Hunter River near Maitland and the Walka site at Oakhampton. At the time of construction the Walka Water Works was the largest industrial project in the Hunter Valley.
With Mr John Nicholson appointed as the first engineer in charge, Walka Water Works began operating in 1887, treating and pumping water to Maitland and Newcastle.
Three large steam engines, each with a flywheel weighing 36 tonnes, drove pumps which lifted water 90 metres to the Buttai reservoir. Each of the three engines averaged 13 to 14 revolutions a minute and worked two main pumps.
The pumping plant consisted of high lift and low lift pumps, the high lift sending filtered water to summit reservoirs and the low lift drawing water from the Hunter river or Walka lagoon for delivery to the settling tank.
During peak operation the site produced 3843 megalitres of water and remained the primary supply for Maitland, Morpeth and Newcastle until a full supply was received from Chichester Dam on 4 December 1924.
As a result, Walka was placed on standby in 1925 and closed in 1929.
Plant equipment from the complex was eventually sold for scrap in 1949.
Walka was reopened in late 1951 when the Electricity Commission commenced installation of a temporary power station to overcome post war electricity shortages. A package genertaing plant was purchased from General electric at a cost of about 3 million pounds and was expected to be operating and adding 25,000 kilowatts to the interconnected system by September 1952. The plant was imported from the United States andshipped out in pieces, delivered by rail to Maitland station and then transported to the site by a specially engineered truck.
The plant began porducing electricity in 1953. Three boilers ran on coal and another ran on oil, although this later became a coal/oil combination. Two rail lines were built to the power station from the North Coast railway line.
The power station operated until August 1976, when it was decommissioned and the site closed.
The Walka Water Works complex was classified by the National Trust in 1976, recognised as one of the largest and most intact 19th century industrial complexes in the Hunter Valley. In 1984 a trust was formed to reopen the site and restore the waterworks complex.
Walka is now open to the public as Maitland City Council's 'Walka Recreation and Wildlife Reserve'.
The ‘Explore Walka’ project for maitland City Council was recognised with a National Award of Excellence by Interpretation Australia.