$50,000 may go on shifting pond eels

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 06:45 13/02/2013
Eels
PIERS FULLER/Fairfax NZ
SLIPPERY CUSTOMER: Matt Paku with one of the eels to be relocated from sewerage ponds.

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Tens of thousands of fat, contented eels may be scooped up and moved to new lodgings as part of a sewerage scheme upgrade in Wairarapa.

Up to $50,000 will be spent relocating the estimated 85,000 eels that have made their homes in Masterton's Homebush sewage storage ponds. They will be moved next summer after the old ponds are decommissioned and new ponds are completed.

A Masterton District Council report recommends initial spending of $12,000 to provide a "transfer system" to encourage the eels into the new ponds, as well as "ladders" and "ropes" to help eels and elvers come and go.

The daunting task is likely to involve weeks of trapping with set-nets and scoops, and has been labelled "protracted, but unavoidable" by the report.

Kahungunu fisheries representative and eel expert Matt Paku said the task "won't be a problem". "The eels feed around the outside of the ponds so you'd just go at night and throw out the nets and then come back and pull them out."

He was hopeful it would not come to that, with the eels likely to make their own way into the new ponds and settle.

If they proved reluctant to leave the comforts of home, a further $15,000 would be spent collecting them in nets and manually transferring them to the new ponds, or $35,000 to truck them to another Wairarapa water source.

The eels, which were "90 per cent" short-finned, fattened up on insects and kitchen fat that drained through people's sinks, Mr Paku said. "They're some of the best eels I've seen in 40 years, they're in such good condition."

Iwi officer Ra Smith said eels were iconic to the Wairarapa region. "Traditionally we were known for eels."

The recommendations will be put to councillors at a meeting today.

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- The Dominion Post

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