Pond's future splits community

MONEY PIT: Resolving the ongoing issues with the Tahunanui modellers' pond could come with a hefty price tag.
MONEY PIT: Resolving the ongoing issues with the Tahunanui modellers' pond could come with a hefty price tag.

The community is split over whether the Nelson City Council should spend $500,000 fixing the Modellers' Pond at Tahunanui.

The pond is being choked by out-of-control weeds and smelly algae and the council proposes spending the one-off payment of $500,000 to fix it with an on-going cost of $93,000 a year for maintenance and interest.

A Nelson Mail online poll with 1950 votes shows a sharp divide with 946 in favour of the $500,000 fix and 919 against, while 85 do not know or do not care.

The proposed one-off payment by the council will cover changing the shape of the pond, making it deeper, but with a smaller surface area to keep water temperatures lower and potentially reduce algae growth.

It is expected this will reduce water evaporation so the pond would not have to be topped up as much. Grey mullet could also be introduced to the pond to control the weed and algae

A weir between the pond and the sea would be changed to make sure the fish were not swept out at high tides and extra landscaping to make the area more attractive would be included.

The alternative is to fill in the pond for $260,000.

While councillors have to keep an open mind on all options until a final decision is made councillor Matt Lawrey said he has spoken to many people opposing the proposal.

"I recently went down to the pond on a Sunday afternoon and approached seven groups of people who were there enjoying the trains and asked them for their thoughts on the issue. None of them thought $500,000 plus $93,000 a year thereafter was a good idea and many had ideas about other things they would like to see in the area," he said.

He said there were questions about the whether the measures proposed would actually reduce the weed and algae problems, which seemed to be an issue since the inception of the recreational area.

"For that price I am wary," Mr Lawrey said.

He said he understood the people of Tahunanui might feel they were losing something if the pond was to be filled in, but it could also be an opportunity to bring something new to the area.

Deputy mayor Paul Matheson said he wanted a "reasonable solution."

"Quite frankly, the amount of money allocated at the moment seems extremely high to me and I think we just have an open mind on every option possible to retain the pond and its recreational value. Not just for Tahunanui, but for Nelson city," he said.

He said Tahunanui and the Modellers' Pond area contributed millions of dollars to the city's tourism.

Nelson Society of Modellers president Alan Malaquin said the club was working with the council to try fix problems and had recently fixed a windmill next to the pond to find a "sustainable" way to keep the pond topped up with fresh water.

Mr Malaquin was "absolutely" opposed to the idea of filling in the pond as he said it was one of the few safe calm water facilities in the city for families to use and was important to the modellers' community.

He also said the pond was part of the city's stormwater system, which reduced flooding in the Tahunanui area so it "deserved to have some maintenance on it". The club had once been responsible for looking after the pond using chemicals to treat the weed issue in early years, but was stopped because of resource consent.

"The council needs to support groups like the Modellers and local Tahunanui community to find a solution," he said.

Tahunanui business association chairman Mike Thomas said a majority of the association's members still believed in the future of the pond and the contributions it brought to the community at the moment, but were open to other suggestions as they arose.

The pond has a long history in the city. Most accounts put the pond being built in the 1930s.

Nelson resident Claris Rackley said she can remember her father building the pond about 80 years ago as part of an effort to employ men after the depression.

However, she did not know if spending so much money on the historical pond was worth it.

"It seems a shame, but if it is as bad as people say is it worth it? There is much more that could be done with that money I suppose," she said.

Mr Lawrey encouraged people to voice their views on the proposal when the council's draft annual plan goes out for the public consultation on March 28.