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Native fish rescue mission at Modellers’ Pond: Nelson City Council

Native fish, including eel (tuna) and whitebait (inanga), have been relocated from the Modellers’ Pond to nearby freshwater streams as Council’s contractor drained the pond so it can be transformed into a family-friendly park.

The fish rescue team included representatives from Council, Fish and Wildlife Services, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Taylors Contracting, the firm responsible for deconstructing the pond and creating the new park.

“About a third of the eel (tuna) saved were the ‘at-risk, declining’ long-fin variety, including some large breeding females,” says Team Leader Rebecca Dawkins.

“Council’s deconstruction policy means that where we remove buildings and structures, we leave as small a footprint as possible. Protecting the native wildlife in the pond and giving it a chance to thrive in a more suitable environment, is very much part of that culture.”

Renan Falleiros from DOC described how the rescue took place.

“The pond outlet was blocked yesterday at low tide, and the contractors started to pump the water out this morning. A 3mm mesh was placed over the pump’s intake to make sure no fish were pumped out, and a deeper hole was dug in the pond and surrounded by rocks to cordon off the eel and inanga so they could be caught.”

Once the water has been emptied from the pond, rocks will be laid down and then covered with clay. This will be compressed by a tractor to create a good base for the park.

The Tāhunanui Reserve park is due to be completed by winter and will include seating, picnic areas, trees planted for shade, natural play areas, boardwalks, a sheltered lookout for birdwatching, and a proposed shunting yard that will complement the model train tracks.

The final design also includes estuarine planting and low-lying areas that will sometimes be inundated by king tides. This is a feature of the new park, with the tides continually moulding the shape and character of some of the play spaces.

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