Proactive landowners’ push to protect flora and fauna

Canterbury landowners have gone the extra mile to protect native wildlife on their property.

Several lizard species were found during a construction project in the upper Selwyn Waihora zone.

Grass skink, McCann’s skink, Southern Alps gecko and the rare Canterbury spotted skink were all found during surveys, and a subsequent lizard salvage operation, as part of a pipeline project to help transfer water across the property.

Spotted skink. Photo credit: Dormer Construction

Southern Alps gecko. Photo credit: Dormer Construction

The discovery of Canterbury spotted skink was an unexpected find. This species is a Threatened  Nationally Vulnerable skink found within the wider Canterbury region. There are few known populations of the skink, whose distribution ranges from Mt Grey in the North Island to the Rangitata River in the South Island.

Spotted skinks are large for New Zealand lizards, with adults measuring at least 180mm in length. They have an incredible green colouration with spotted markings. The skink is so large it eats other smaller skink species. They are typically found in rock piles, scree and tussock grassland in coastal shrubland.

Environmental planning and design consultancy Boffa Miskell helped protect the skinks during the project. Project ecologist Scott Hooson was thrilled with the rare find.

"Spotted skinks were previously unknown from this area making the find very exciting, although it added an unexpected hurdle to the project," he said.

"We worked closely with the landowners and Dormer Construction to re-align the pipeline to avoid the area of spotted skink habitat," he added.

Native flora to support biodiversity

A digger at the site where the project took place. Photo credit: Dormer Construction

A digger at the site where the project took place. Photo credit: Dormer Construction

Several rare plants were also found along the pipeline alignment, including leafless pohuehue, a threatened - nationally vulnerable species, as well as other areas of high ecological value, including several wetlands. Locations of rare plants and areas of high ecological value were mapped, and the pipeline’s alignment was redirected to avoid disturbing them.

Now the pipeline is complete, the landowners are planting the project area with native grasses and shrubs to create native habitat and increase biodiversity.

"It’s an amazing example of kaitiakitanga/guardianship," resource management officer Mike Seque said.

Collaboration to protect native species

Dormer Construction project manager Jerry Philip said working out in a remote landscape had its challenges but that "it was a pleasure being part of this project."

He said their close involvement with Boffa Miskell ensured the best outcome for the lizards.

"We worked intimately with Boffa Miskell ecologists to carry out surveys that told us where sensitive flora and fauna existed, so we could alter the project where possible to avoid or protect these areas," he said.

Jerry said the landowner's drive to protect the native flora and fauna was admirable.

"We couldn’t be happier with the final result, and I’m sure the lizards agree," he said.