Lizard rehoming at Omāroro

Published 09/11/2020

Lizards living in the area where the new Omāroro reservoir site is being constructed in Prince of Wales Park in the Town Belt are being rehomed.

The new Omāroro reservoir site in Prince of Wales Park in the Town Belt. Lizards living in the area are being rehomed. 

By Jim McNaughton

Work is about to start on excavating the site for Wellington’s new 35 million litre water reservoir in the Wellington Town Belt, which will double the city’s drinking water storage. But some very delicate work has been undertaken before that can start with the rehoming of lizards that live in the vegetation around the site.

Wellington Water Major Project Director Stephen Wright says creating special new lizard habitats and capturing and relocating the lizards had to be done at the right time, after they came out of hibernation. Four lizard habitats or ‘hotels’ were set up in an area overlooking the site during August by volunteers from the community and students from Wellington High School overseen by a team from the contractor HEB Construction.

Lizard hotel
Lizards captured on the construction site (27 so far and counting) are being relocated to four ‘lizard hotels’ in the area.

 

Made of logs, soil and leaf litter, the habitats and the permit to relocate the lizards are managed by the Department of Conservation for the range of different species of lizards and skinks found in Wellington. At the same time, Department of Conservation approved ecologists set around 50 special lizard ‘traps’ in and around the reservoir site. These are very gentle traps, effectively small lined buckets buried in the ground covered in corrugated iron, which lizards will slip into but not be able to get out. The traps were monitored daily.

Over a period of three weeks, a total of 27 lizards, including 26 Northern Grass skink, some of which were pregnant, and one Copper skink, were captured and rehomed in their new hotels. These habitats will be used to relocate any further lizards or skinks found during construction of the reservoir.

“It is important we protect the indigenous biodiversity and its habitat in the Wellington Town Belt while we build this crucial new piece of water infrastructure for Wellington city, said Stephen Wright.” Overall improvement to the environment through landscaping and working with the community has also been an important part of this project he explained.“During September, prior to vegetation clearance of the reservoir site, members of the community also gathered on Saturday to collect trees, shrubs and ferns from the site for transplanting elsewhere in the Town Belt.”

Since then HEB crews have cleared vegetation and fenced the site, along with completing a range of other site preparations including creating eleven new residents' carparks at the top of Rolleston Street and completing a new pedestrian path connecting Rolleston to Hargreaves Streets.

Russell Obee, Contractor Community Liaison Person for HEB Construction, said he is always looking for ways to involve the community. “A potter was pretty happy to receive two wheelbarrows of clay from us the other day. And we donated a pile of woodchips for a nearby garden. Things like that. The Community Reference Group help keep an eye on things as well. A fresh set of eyes is always useful.”

Other key areas of work have included completion of the upper field sediment pond to capture any runoff from the site, setting up the site compound on the upper field, and creation of silt fences to protect Papawai and Waitangi streams.

Paul Reid, HEB Construction’s manager for the project, says protecting the environment is an inspiring and rewarding part of the project.
“Looking after the environment is really important to us the contractor on this project. We are very proud to be doing this work on behalf of Wellington and Wellingtonians.”

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It’s a great site! The new reservoir will be buried here, so the park will remain a green space for the public.