This is the first of a series of articles about our local streams, many of which have fascinating histories.

The Brook Stream originates on the eastern side of Cummins Spur and Bullock Spur on the Dun Mountain. It has a catchment of 110 hectares and travels approximately six kilometres before joining the Maitai/Mahitahi at the Domett Street Bridge. Along its length, it is crossed by fourteen bridges.

The Maori name Waimarama means clear or transparent water, and it is possibly for this reason that the stream was used as a water source, first by local Ma-ori, then by early European settlers. In 1865 the Provincial Government provided a substantial loan (£20,000) for the purpose of providing a stable water source for sanitation and firefighting. The waterworks opened for business in 1867, with a 17.5 cm pipe transporting water from the upper reaches of the Brook to the Nelson Township. This was eventually replaced with the Roding River scheme in 1943, which in turn was superseded by the Maitai scheme in 1987.

In a heavy rain event in 1970, an overflow from the reservoir was augmented by the water coming from flooded creeks and culverts, raising water levels and flooding the Brook Valley. Roadways and river margins subsided, concrete bridges were smashed, and houses and sheds were undermined. One resident, Mrs J.E. McCartney of Bronte Street was swept away to her death while trying to open a jammed door. The concrete channel between the Brook Dairy and Sowman Street was built after this tragedy.

Although sections of the stream are much changed from its natural state, there is still plenty of biodiversity to be found in the stream with tuna (long and short finned eels), inanga, koaro, banded kokopu, torrentfish, bullies, smelt and koura (freshwater crayfish) all present. Fish passage work has helped improve fish spawning upstream.

An unusual fact: In 1924, an American film company shot a film in Nelson called Venus of the South Seas. A section of the old Brook reservoir was glazed and filled with water to shoot underwater scenes. You can view it at (search = Annette Kellerman in Venus of the South Seas, 1924).

If you’ve got historical information – stories, images or footage that might be of interest, please contact