Council Consults with Lizard People

8/10/2019 12:00 a.m.

Ohau gecko

Its Lizard Awareness Month at Waitaki District Council - a bridge upgrade contracted for January 2020 has seen Waitaki District Council Officers required to engage a herpetologist (someone who specialises in the study of reptiles and amphibians) as they need expert advice on creating a management plan for geckos and skinks.

“This is our first ever Lizard Management Plan (LMP),” Waitaki’s Network Operations Engineer, Mark Renalson confirms. “Mandy Tocher from Ryder Environmental (Dunedin) has been engaged and completed a field study which confirmed the presence of lots of Southern Alps geckos and southern grass skinks (at risk and declining). These are coexisting with another skink (skink experts are divided here) which is known by some as the drylands grass skink. These skinks are residing within the consent zone on Lake Ohau Road where Council plan to upgrade two bridges right at the end of our network and in a scenic area, which attracts hikers, campers, tourists etc and requires environmental care.”

To be able to carry out the work, the Waitaki District Council requires a resource consent from Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The consent compels protection of any listed species (within the land area subject to the consent) and in particular, if lizards were found to be present, a Lizard Management Plan (LMP) is needed.

The LMP lists the impact of any work and any mitigation needed. “The Department of Conservation want to see lizard values as good as they were or better at the works completion, says Mandy. “It’s a tricky one. The land involved is on Lake Ohau Station and DOC land, meaning they will both need to work together to create a new habitat for the lizards.”

Of the creation and implementation of an LMP (ECan) and Wildlife Act Authority (DOC) which will outline how the lizards are cared for, Mandy says, “Its a win win. This will protect the animals and allow Waitaki District Council to do the work. If necessary, a lizard salvage will be carried out - creating a new habitat for the lizards that’s safe”. This may not be required, as Mandy plans to make another site visit which will let contractors avoid the lizard habitat as much as possible, by choosing​ working areas away from them.

“These lizards (skinks) are at risk of decline and it’s a ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ if we don’t stop and put things back. We’re trying to stop them creeping up the threatened list to extinction”, Mandy says.

The physical bridge work will not start until January 2020 and that’s when all the conditions of these various consents must be met. Until then, the Waitaki District Council will be working to complete the Lizard Management Plan and obtain the Wildlife Act Authority.

Page reviewed: 08 Oct 2019 2:52pm