Friday 24 February 2012

Transmission Gully would displace rare birds and plants

Birds, bats and lizards could be displaced when up to 125 hectares of indigenous vegetation is felled or modified to make way for Transmission Gully.
However, the replanting of 250ha would compensate for the loss of vegetation, ecologist Stephen Fuller said in his written evidence.
“The total area of selected mitigation sites (including early retirement sites) is 426ha, of which 250ha is required for mitigation of effects on terrestrial flora and fauna, the remainder provides mitigation of effects on freshwater and riparian habitats.”
The New Zealand Transport Agency retired 31ha of land for “advanced ecological mitigation” eight years ago.
Dr Fuller appeared before the board of inquiry today in support of the New Zealand Transport Agency, Porirua City Council and Transpower, which are applying for consents to build the highway, link roads and move transmission towers.
The board has the power to kill the project, approve it or allow it to go ahead with additional conditions.
It will release a final decision in June.
The project would cause the permanent loss of 40ha of indigenous vegetation beneath the road footprint, he said.
A further 85ha could be lost temporarily or modified due to earthworks and construction of the $1 billion inland route linking Linden to McKays Crossing over six years.
The rare Leptinella tenella plant is growing in an area where stormwater treatment ponds are proposed, should it be lost remediation would be required, Dr Fuller said.
Before felling bush, lizards and logs containing Peripatus or "velvet worms" should be translocated to nearby safe habitats.
Dr Fuller said the presence, species and distribution of native bats at Wainui Saddle still needed to be verified.
“It is our expectation that effects on lizards can be fully mitigated and the effects will be neutral. The retirement and revegetation of large areas of land abutting the Akatarawa Whakatikei forest will provide long term benefits for forest species.”
The 27 species of birds found in the Gully area include three threatened species - bush falcon, kaka, and pied shag - and two at risk species, NZ pipit and black shag.
Dr Fuller said it was unlikely that kaka or falcon would be affected by the loss of small areas of bush along the margin of the Akatarawa forest.
Any effect on black and pied shag being displaced from the Horokiri Stream bed by construction activity would be very low, he said.
No indigenous vegetation would be affected by relocating the 24 transmission towers, however some areas of pioneer shrubland and scrub dominated by gorse would be cleared.
The current four-lane designation mainly traversed farm paddocks, Dr Fuller said.
“Overall, the avoidance or minimisation of effects through Project shaping and initial design have reduced the scale of effects on valued terrestrial flora and fauna to the point that residual effects can in my view they can be readily mitigated.”
Dr Fuller was involved in developing a proposed ecological management and monitoring plan which sets out methods to manage the site during construction to ensure potential affects are monitored and required ecological mitigation is achieved.
The hearing is due to end in mid-March.

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