In recognition of the innovation and creative excellence of the project, Urban Eels has won the 2021 New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) annual Rodney Davies Project Award.
Funding towards the development of the ‘Urban Eels Implementation Plan’, totaling $9,000, was provided by the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord Community Grants Fund. This funding was awarded through two separate applications in different years.
The project is the brainchild of Fiona Gordon, Director of Gordon Consulting.
“Gordon Consulting partnered with Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated (TMI) on Urban Eels at the outset and this was integral to the success of this project. We have all worked to prioritise Tikanga Māori and the Māori cultural world view and this was recognised by NZPI when we received the award,” Fiona Gordon says.
Following the adoption of the Implementation Plan, funding to build Urban Eels came from Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) and the Ministry for the Environment Freshwater Improvement Fund administered by Horizons Regional Council. PNCC coordinated the design, consenting and building of the site which was opened in July 2020.
“The intention of Urban Eels is very much about creating a space where people can easily reconnect with nature, and walk away with an increased appreciation of tuna (eels) and their story through the Māori cultural world view,” Ms Gordon says.
“If they haven’t already visited, people can find the eel feeding platform by walking along the He Ara Kotahi pathway, which follows the flow of the Manawatū River on the western side of Palmerston North, until they come to the signage for Urban Eels at Turitea Stream.
“Urban Eels is a place for us to reconnect with nature and to share and experience Tikanga Māori – philosophies and practices. These, in my mind, are essential components for the development of a wider sustainability practice in New Zealand.
“Having contestable funding, like the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord Community Grant, is important for community-led projects like Urban Eels. Whether it is initial seed funding to move an idea forward or funding for a specific task within the wider project, it all helps to get the work done,” says Ms Gordon.