The Sohole lives

I walked past the Ponsonby Sohole the other evening and wow has it taken off. Where once there was a gaping hole in the heart of the Ponce there’s now a gaping hole with a charming pond at the bottom – and the beginnings of an eco-system.

A quick background: a properly hideous development was planned for the cute historic neighbourhood of Ponsonby by the developers Marlin Group. Called Soho Square, it was going to be a mixed use mini-mall with shops, offices, a cinema and underground parking and a lot of people who lived in Ponsonby hated the idea. I thought the plans looked rubbish.

Nevertheless, Marlin knocked down the old vinegar factory (which was responsible for that lovely yeasty smell that would waft over the ‘hood) and dug a really big hole just in time for the recession and an environment court ruling to put a stop to the whole thing: since 2008 there has been a vast cavity in the middle of Ponsonby, with no-one now clear what’s to be done with it. Presumably Marlin are sitting on plans to start over at some point.

In the meantime locals have dub it the Sohole and it attracts some quite good grafitti, mosquitoes, and the odd amusing art-collective who turn it into a pool for the day before being turfed out by security. Oh and ducks.

Because check it out – in the few years the pool has lain dormant, the thing has started reverting to a natural state. There are ducks, gulls, and reeds have started growing up among the thickets of reinforcing iron. It’s really quite beautiful and gave me a proper itch to break in and see if frogs have made it down there. If they haven’t, I think I’ll have a crack at introducing them.

I also know some easy spots for catching koura (native freshwater crayfish – not the band) and am seriously thinking about lobbing a few in there to start a breeding population – check out the photos of some I found in the Waitakeres a while back. Eels, too, would thrive in there. Eels are so hardy it’s ridiculous and I reckon I could nab a few in the Waitakeres while I’m gathering the koura. They’d certainly survive being tossed into the pond…

There’s something almost sci-fi about helping to change a lifeless urban eyesore into a place with a self-sustained eco-system – it’d be like terraforming Mars – and I wonder what plants or animals are best at beginning the process. Would a handful of oxygen weed be a good start? I’d love to see the place eventually thrive, with visiting herons, resident kokupu, koura, eels – some friendly ducks. But then… wouldn’t that just damn all the plants and animals to death when the bulldozers finally roll in?

It would be terrible to see all that go – literally – down the drain. What do you think?


  1. I thought exactly the same thing when I saw the reeds growing there. It’s great seeing how quickly nature reclaims a space. It’s a great memorial to failed development.

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