A model community: the people behind the Pond

Nelson Society of Modellers' spokesman Nigel Gibbs.

Nelson Society of Modellers' spokesman Nigel Gibbs.

For 17 years Nigel Gibbs has been trying to push the boat out and convince the council to fix the Modellers Pond.

Gibbs is president of the Society of Modellers and said problems with the weed-infested pond escalated in 2000.

"The council told us we weren't allowed to [treat it with chemicals] anymore and so we asked them to come up with a solution as to how it could be managed.. and we've been working on this since then," Gibbs said. 

The Nelson City Council has explored a range of options and earlier this year voted to fix the pond for an estimated $1.2 million.

That solution would involve putting a new concrete liner on the base of the pond and regular flushing of sea water.

But after the cost ballooned to an estimated $1.73 million, the council decided to go back to the drawing board and consider other options, including turning the pond into an estuarine environment.

One of the big considerations for the council is the pond's stormwater function.

Gibbs thought there might be "hidden costs" to the estuarine option.

"Obviously we don't want to have to see it do that but they've got to do due diligence and get some costings somehow," Gibbs said.

It has been a drawn out process for the Modellers Society.

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"Every year the price goes up more... and everyone gets more and more outraged every [time] it goes up another couple of hundred thousand dollars, or whatever it goes up."

Gibbs said the club had around 50 families keen on using the pond, but their members weren't the only ones with access to it.

He said they asked people not to run activities at the same time as the club's Sunday events, but people could use it whenever they wished.

"Which makes it difficult for it to be a user-pays thing, it's in an open park, there's no fencing around it, there's no way of charging people to use it which is another thing that's been suggested," he said.

The pond hasn't been able to be used successfully for some time.

"[I've] seen families turn up with a young kid with a boat they've built or got for Christmas or a birthday... and then all of a sudden it's out in the middle of the pond and they're having to get their gear off to get out there and retrieve it because it's stuck in the weeds..."

He said because the pond was in a bad way, it made it easy for those opposed to "knock it" and argue it wasn't used.

"It can't be used as it is," he said.

"Years ago there used to be a whole lot of boating regattas and that sort of thing, [we held] boat races."

"We were hoping to have had it cleaned for our international model convention this coming January."

While a permanent fix is off the table ahead of the convention, Gibbs said the council had agreed to cover the cost of a temporary mechanical clean which he hoped would happen next month.

"That should see us through the Christmas/New Year period [so we can] go through the summer with it looking reasonable..."

He said a council report suggested their fundraising achievement of $15,000 would be put towards the regatta, but now the council would pay for the clean, they wouldn't use that money, saving it instead for a potential fix.

The club is also applying for Rata Foundation grant, which was given towards the pond fix, to be deferred until the council makes it final decision about the future of the pond.

Until that decision's made, it's a waiting game for Gibbs, who continues to field questions from curious community members who see him working at the pond.

Someone recently asked him why fish couldn't be put in the pond.

"It has been investigated and discounted. Because we're right on the edge of the estuary and the tide flows in and out, we can't guarantee keeping the fish in the pond and so the [Department of Conservation] won't allow it effectively."

Despite all the to-and-fro over the pond, Gibbs is hopeful they'll be able to keep the "safe body of water" to sail boats on.

'It's not too deep to be a hazard and if something goes wrong with your boat you can just go out and retrieve it," he said.

"One of the suggestions is we've got to shift model boating to the lower Maitai, but you've got a river running through the middle of it [and] a current... if something goes wrong with your boat or you use control of it, it's gone."



 - Stuff


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