Frederick Kissel was a former General Manager of the New Zealand Electricity Department, and one of the pioneer authorities on electric power development in New Zealand. He died in Wellington in July 1962 at the age of 82.

He began his engineering career with the Public Works Department (PWD) after graduating from Canterbury College in 1905.

In 1911 he was Engineer-in-Charge of the first installation at Lake Coleridge and, in 1922, he was sent abroad to gain experience in the latest practices in hydroelectric engineering.

Shortly after his return to New Zealand he was appointed Chief Electrical Engineer to the PWD and upon the formation of the State Hydro-electric Department in 1945 he was made its first General Manager.

Kissel specialised in the development of water power, and from the small beginning in State enterprise at Lake Coleridge, he guided the expansion of the electric supply system throughout New Zealand. After his retirement in 1948, Kissel continued in the engineering profession and for several years was a director of William Cable Holdings.

He was interested in sport, particularly rugby, and retained an association with Canterbury College through the Old Maroons Club. He was also a vice-president of the Victoria University Rugby Football Club.

Regarded by his colleagues as being conscientious almost to a fault, Kissel was never a person to be bustled. A man of vision, experience, humour and effective authority, he had the qualities required during his term of office to meet the demands of high-pressure expansion in the electricity industry.

He was President of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers (now the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ)) in 1932–1933.

Kissel's widespread "exceptional and distinguished service to the profession of engineering" was recognised by our Institution in 1954, when he was awarded the first FW MacLean Citation. On that occasion, when he made a formal speech accepting the distinction, he briefly, and characteristically, said that what he enjoyed most during his career was his work in the backblocks of Canterbury and Central Otago, the hours of scrambling round the steelwork of bridges and trekking over steep hills, as well as travelling through the bush at Mangahao and round the tussock plains of Central Otago.

He had also enjoyed the tussles with supply authority engineers and local body chairmen, but the job he most liked was travelling round New Zealand with the Rural Electrical Reticulation Council and being able to tell the settlers in the backblocks that the Government would subsidise the cost of rural lines to enable them to have electricity in their homes. That was a real pleasure, something that approached the ideal definition of a civil engineer – one who harnessed the forces of nature to the service of man.

More information


William Newnham, Learning Service Achievement (Wellington: New Zealand Institution of Engineers, 1971), pp.351–52.

Further reading

F. Nigel Stace. ‘Kissel, Frederick Templeton Manheim,’ from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 October 2013.

Additional image gallery details

Distinguished guests at the opening of the Lake Waitaki hydro-electric power station [1934] - Photograph taken by Green and Hahn. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: PAColl-9150-13. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Frederick Kissel is in the centre front, holding a piece of paper. 

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.