A big part of the Transmission Gully motorway project is about achieving good long-term environmental outcomes. We want to make sure we leave the environment in better shape than it was before works started, and to create an enduring corridor of biodiversity and ecological connections, helping flora and fauna to thrive.
To that end one of the largest planting programmes ever seen in the lower North Island is underway on the project. More than 530 hectares are being retired from grazing, and areas planted with around 2 million native trees and shrubs. Pest control efforts are also being carried out throughout the 27 kilometre route, and this work will continue after the new motorway has been completed.
We also expect to see local bird, lizard and native fish populations grow as a result of the landscaping and planting work being done by the ecology and environment teams.
In July 2018, three species of lizard were given two special whakapainga (blessings) by Kaumātua of two iwi, before being released to a pest-protected home in the hills near Paekākāriki, overlooking Kāpiti Island.
The copper skinks, common geckos and brown skinks, were gathered from a section of the route of the Transmission Gully motorway before construction began in 2015 and have been housed at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve near Waikanae since their capture. Now that the way is clear for their return, the lizards have been released back to newly created habitats, located outside of the active construction site.
Project staff and partners worked over two days, to firstly measure, weigh and tag the lizards, and then transport them to an area of special ‘predator-free’ rock piles, designed by PhD student Zoey Lennon. Zoey says the rock piles provide an ideal home for the lizards.
“As part of my thesis work, I designed specially sized boulder fields, that allow the lizards to access their new habitat, but ensure predators such as rats and mice, can’t get in,” says Zoey.
The newly created habitats the lizards were released to are located outside of the Transmission Gully motorway project's active construction site. The area was cleared of predators before the lizards were released in April 2018. Pest control in the area continues.
To find out more about the lizard release, check out our interview series with the wider team.