When the land was given to the Recreation Ground Board in 1875 the stream which flowed through the valley went through the middle what is the Hatchery Lawn today. When the dam was put in to form the main lake a spillway was constructed at the northwest corner of the lake and flowed through to the Hatchery Lawn, down a small waterfall and back into the original stream bed.

Taken from T K Skinner map of New Plymouth 1880

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By 1882 a lily pond had been formed, and an ornamental fountain was constructed between the pond and the back of the main lake’s dam, courtesy of Professor Furlong. The fate of Furlongs Fountain is unknown. Above the fountain in the hillside can be seen a glowworm cave.

Furlong's Fountain

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In 1902 the Board agreed to allow the Acclimatisation Society to build trout rearing ponds, and the area that is Hatchery Lawn was chosen as the most suitable site. There were several ponds forming an arc around Furlongs Fountain. Fry were put in the ponds and fed on mashed liver until they were big enough to fend for themselves, then they were released into local rivers throughout Taranaki. During the first world war the ponds were abandoned, and they were filled in for safety reasons.

Fish Rearing Ponds, circa 1906 - now Hatchery Lawn

In 1921 the Recreation Ground Board were again approached by the Acclimatisation Society with a plan to develop a hatchery. Permission was granted and a hatchery was built, taking the form of a Maori whare. The site was chosen due to the difference in elevation between the water level in the main lake and the hatchery lawn. This meant that the falling water was aerated, vital for the hatching process.

Trout ova were brought in from Rotorua (Rainbow Trout) and Hakataramea in the South Island (Brown Trout). Initially this venture was successful, however problems with water quality became an issue. From records it would appear that the hatchery ceased to be used circa 1928. The building remained on site for a number of years and a concrete water tank from the hatchery can still be seen at the southern end of the Hatchery Lawn, hidden in the undergrowth.

A description of the operation of the hatchery was published in the Taranaki Daily News, August 20, 1921, this is reproduced at the end of this article.

Old Lily Pond with Hatchery Building in the background

Part of the southern end of the lily pond was reclaimed early in 1933 using silt from the lower lake, and Robert Clinton Hughes planted a ceremonial kauri tree there the following year. Unfortunately, the site was too wet and the tree did not like it and died in the early 1950s and was removed by Jack Goodwin.

In 1954 the lily pond was completely filled in. An island in the middle of Fountain Lake was removed when the Queen Elizabeth II fountain was constructed and some of the spoil was used to fill the Lily Pond. Most of the fill came from Fitzroy Golf Club. There is a belief that the Lily Pond was filled in so as to dispose of the island, that is not the case. The reason for filling the Lily Pond was to create extra space for people to congregate to view the fountain.

Robert Clinton Hughes planting a kauri in 1934. photo, private collection, Warwick Horton.
Taranaki Herald, June 15, 1956

Taranaki Daily News August 20, 1921




These hatcheries are now in full swing, and have been largely patronised by the public of late, who have been full of appreciation of the work of the society, and in particular of that of Mr. W. J. Bell, who is superintending operations. Indeed, one visitor from the South Island remarked that it was well worth travelling to New Plymouth to see the hatchery alone. There are now some 275,000 Ova and young trout on view, but would-be visitors are urged not to delay if they wish to see them, as they are progressing rapidly that the commencement of liberations takes place at once. Briefly, the series of operations now going forward is as follows:- The ova arrive packed in butter-cloth, resting upon moss; the case in which they travel is also arranged to carry a quantity of ice. This keeps the vitality of the eggs down, so that, being semi-dormant, they are less likely to sustain injury on their journey. Even then the boxes of ova have to be handled with extreme care. For instance, a heavy blow to the case is sufficient to kill a large number of eggs. Arrived at the hatchery, the ova are carefully unpacked, or floated off the butter-cloth into a bowl of ice-cold water, and then spread on the hatching trays. The troughs which contain these also contain at first large pieces of ice. This gradually melts, and the water rises to its normal temperature without injuring the ova, which otherwise would be killed by the shock. The trays are placed in tiers in the troughs, and by an ingenious arrangement the water is made to rise through them all from bottom to top in succession. On examining the eggs, it will be noticed that there are two black dots, some way apart, in each of them. These are the eggs of the future fish, and when they are present it is certain that the egg is fertile. When nearing hatching, it is possible to see the eyes moving about in the egg, through the semi-transparent shell, giving it a somewhat uncanny appearance. In a few days, depending upon how far advanced the ova were when received, and upon the temperature of the water, the young trout commence to burst their shells and to make their appearance. They do not look very much like fish, for each troutlet has attached to its abdomen a sac or, rather, one might say, each sac has a troutlet attached to it. This is the remainder of the yolk of the egg, and the fish gradually absorb it, growing fast all the time. When it is just absorbed is the time plant the fish in the rivers.

There are many queer freaks of nature among the baby fish. Some have two heads, some two tails and some are Siamese twins. These, of course, live only a very short time. In liberating the fish the greatest care has to be exercised in bringing the temperature of the water in the fish cans to that of the river. This is accomplished by pouring water out of the can and replacing it with water from the river, and often takes some time, and many changes. It is only necessary to state that a difference of over two degrees will kill every fish, to show the importance of the above, indeed, many fish must have been killed by liberators at times simply owing to their ignorance of this point. The system of liberation is based on the fact that three or four tiny fish are unnoticed by big trout, eels, etc., as being in no sense a meal. To liberate young fish of any sort in a body is a great mistake. They invariably form a shoal, and naturally attract attention which their enemies are not long in giving to them.

The present-day liberator passes along the river with a receptacle of fish. Here and there, whenever he finds a quiet little shallow, he dips out a very few never more than six. It takes a long time, but the results that follow prove it to be the right one. Indeed, the excellent waters of South Taranaki were made by this process. The little fish now fend for themselves. Never having been artificially fed their natural instinct teaches them what to look for and what to eat. They are spread all over the river, so there is food for all. They thrive and grow in their new environment at an enormous rate in this Dominion, and nowhere in it is there better trout water than in Taranaki.

The secretary of the Acclimatisation Society (Mr. Val. Duff, New Plymouth) would be glad to hear from gentlemen willing to assist in liberating fish, especially in the following districts:- Opunake, Inglewood, Okato, Warea, Lepperton, Oaonui.