Nestled within the busy urban landscape of Palmerston North, Urban Eels has swiftly become a popular destination attracting tuna (eel) and people alike to the Turitea Stream. A steady stream of visitors is now actively reconnecting with nature, enjoying feeding the tuna, and being re-acquainted with the enduring relationship between man and tuna through the expression of the Maori cultural world view.
The initial concept for Urban Eels was developed by Fiona Gordon, Assoc. NZPI, Director of Gordon Consulting, drawing from the IUCN Protected Areas and Urban Protected Areas programmes, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Steering away from status quo'consultation' and 'engagement', Gordon Consulting worked to build an authentic partnership with Tanenuiarangi ManawatÅ« Incorporated (TMI), a mandated iwi for Rangitane. This innovative approach allowed Gordon Consulting to focus on a facilitative and collaborative role, enabling TMI to set the narrative, direction, and drive decision making through the evolution of the "Urban Eels: Our Sustainable City - Implementation Plan 2018".
The Plan genuinely prioritises Tikanga Maori and the Maori cultural world view, sets out the objectives and action plan as envisaged by TMI, and cements TMI ownership of the project in perpetuity. The Plan was formally adopted in 2018 by all other signatories - Ngati Hineaute Hapu Authority, Te Rangimarie, Palmerston North City Council (PNCC), Horizons Regional Council, Te Manawa Museum of Art Science and History, and Massey University.
Palmerston North City Council managed and coordinated the site design, consenting and build of Urban Eels, a significant undertaking. Challenges included a difficult accessway, designing a sound platform in a stream bed, acquiring resource consent for an instream structure, and a significant stream diversion and reinstatement - all within a tight budget. PNCC creatively repurposed concrete panels, from temporary stream crossings, and Kanuka from another site of cultural significance. Week three of construction coincided with Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown requiring PNCC to list the project as essential works to keep quarries open and secure the site with rock linings - completed just before rain hit and the site became inundated.
The dawn blessing in July 2020 was marked with the release of tuna into the Turitea Stream and a rahui was put in place. This truly collaborative project has created, widened and strengthened partnerships through a focus on the expression of the Maori cultural world view. The innovation and creative excellence in both the planning and construction has brought about positive social, cultural and environmental change - reflective of NZPI 2021 Conference theme "voices, values and vision".